Richard Lawler, M.D., or as his family called him, “Richie,” a DePaul alum, led a team of surgeons at Little Company of Mary Hospital in the Chicago suburb of Evergreen Park, through the first human kidney transplant on record on June 17, 1950. The operation was hailed as a medical feat because it was the first time a vital human organ had been moved from one person to another. The patient lived for another five years. However, the procedure was not without controversy. Some in the medical community believed it was performed too soon and some Catholic clergy claimed the surgeons were playing God. Following the pushback, Lawler never performed another transplant. Nevertheless, in 1970, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
While researching him and his pioneering procedure, I was surprised to learn that he also served in the U.S. Navy during World War I, piloting a single-engine Curtiss Model F, the so-called flying boat.
Edmund Lawler, Richard Lawler's great nephew and DePaul faculty member