Bill Waiser

Pioneers of transplant surgery

Saskatoon has a long, significant history in the field of kidney transplants

I’m sitting in Dr. Mike Moser’s office at Royal University Hospital late one Monday morning in May. He seems remarkably relaxed for someone who is going to perform two kidney transplant surgeries later that night at St. Paul’s hospital.

I know from our conversation that the pending surgery still excites him, even though Moser has been involved in about 500 transplants during his medical career.

Moser contacted me last year to see if I was interested in telling the story of kidney transplantation in Saskatoon. The son of parents with history degrees, the Edmonton-born Moser was introduced to history from an early age; he learned it’s not something that happened someplace else and that Western Canada has a rich and vibrant history. But instead of taking up the discipline as a career, he chose medicine — following in the steps of his grandmother, a nurse who told “the best stories.”

It was during his final year of medical school in 1993 that Moser became interested in transplantation.

“This is something I’ve got to do,” he told himself.

After his residency, he secured a fellowship in the Multi-Organ Transplant Program at the London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ont.  There, he learned to perform several kinds of transplants, and received instruction in related areas such immunosuppression and organ preservation.

In 2005, Moser came to Saskatoon on a one-year locum; like others with similar intentions, he ended up staying and eventually forming a practice with Yigang Luo and Gavin Beck, two other graduates of the London transplant program. Today, they are the only dedicated kidney transplant surgeons in Saskatchewan. (Cornea transplants are performed in Saskatoon and Regina.)

That Saskatoon is the only place in the province where kidney transplants are performed is not really surprising, given the city’s connection to the larger transplant story.

The third kidney transplant in Canada was performed at Saskatoon’s University Hospital in December 1963. By the end of the 1960s, about 10 per cent of all kidney transplants worldwide were carried out here.


This article originally appeared in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix: 

Photo: Stella Mossing (centre) endured a second kidney transplant when the first transplant failed. She is flanked by Dr. Betty-Lou Baltzan (left) and Dr. Manny Ty (right), members of the kidney transplant team.
Photo Source: Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan StarPhoenix Collection S-SP-B28496-1

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Bill Waiser is the winner of the 2016 Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction for his most recent book, A World We Have Lost: Saskatchewan Before 1905. The book is available for purchase via McNally Robinson Booksellers