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Tue, May 14 12:06pm · New Transplant Blog Posts in Transplants

In today's Newsfeed post, we would like to introduce you to Dr. Mikel Prieto. Dr. Prieto has been a transplant surgeon at Mayo Clinic for almost 20 years, and has brought so many advances and life-saving techniques to our patients. We are so happy he agreed to be interviewed and share his passion for not only transplant surgery, but also so many interesting parts of his life. Read more about Dr. Prieto, and if you have met him, give him a shout out for his 20 year anniversary!


Tue, May 14 12:00pm · Meet the Expert: Dr. Mikel Prieto in Transplant

Dr. Mikel Prieto is a kidney, pancreas, and pediatric transplant surgeon at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He has special interests in kidney paired donation and transplantation for polycystic kidney disease as well as pancreas transplantation for type 1 diabetics and transplantation in children. I sat down with Dr. Prieto recently to ask him about his career, hobbies, and interests. I learned what he thinks will happen in the field of kidney transplant in the future.

Where did you grow up and how did you decide to become a surgeon?

I grew up San Sabastian, a town in the Basque Region of Spain. My city is known for its beautiful beaches, outdoor activities, and has a claim to fame for being one of the best places to eat in the world. We have many award winning restaurants and San Sabastian is one of the few cities in the world with more than one restaurant with a 3-Star rating in the Michelin guide. My wife is also from the Basque region, and we both met at a ceremony were we were both receiving the “Basques of the World” award. She is a concert pianist who specializes in coaching and accompanying opera singers.

At age 9, I already knew I wanted to be a transplant surgeon. It was the year that Dr. Christiaan Barnard from South Africa, after training in Minnesota, performed the first heart transplant. He wrote a book about his experience. I read the book and found the possibility of organ transplantation in humans fascinating. My other interest was to be an astronaut, because Armstrong landed on the moon around that time. I figured it would be easier to get into transplant surgery than go to space, so after attending medical school in Spain and spending 3 years in England, I came to the United States for training in surgery and organ transplantation. Interestingly, the locker that was assigned to me during my training at the University of Minnesota had the inscription “C. Barnard”. The surgeon that had inspired me to become a transplant surgeon in my youth had shared with me the same operating room locker decades later. After 12 years of training and research in surgery and transplantation, I came to Mayo Clinic, where I have been a transplant surgeon for the last 20 years.

Describe your role on the care team and what brought you to Mayo Clinic.

The first thing I noticed when coming to Mayo Clinic was our strong philosophy of teamwork. In transplant, we need the expertise of many different disciplines, and the surgeon is an integral part of that team. I was drawn to Mayo because this area of medicine, transplantation, is a very fertile ground for teamwork, and Mayo Clinic practices this concept better than any other institution. In my job, I get to change peoples’ lives every day by performing life changing transplants. But that’s not all we do. We also get the privilege of being able to advance the science and art of transplantation medicine and surgery. One of the great aspects of Mayo Clinic is that our teamwork makes it possible for us to make changes in processes and advance the science of transplant through these changes. After two month at Mayo Clinic, I was able to change our practice from open surgeries for kidney donors to laparoscopic (small incisions, fast recovery) surgeries for those patients. We also pioneered the removal of very large polycystic kidneys with a laparoscopic technique. Today we are one of the few centers that perform this procedure at the same time as a kidney transplant. As Mayo Clinic doctors, it is part of our job to innovate and improve care for our patients every day through research and surgical advancements.

Apart from the daily care of transplant patients, I have had several administrative responsibilities. These included Surgical Director of the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program, Director of the Pediatric Kidney Transplant Program, and Director of International Practice Operations for Mayo Clinic.

If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?

If I had to retire from medicine tomorrow, I think I would like to be at least a part-time cowboy or wrangler somewhere in Wyoming, Montana or Colorado. I love the American West, the open plains and mountains. However, my number one love today still is medicine. Sometimes people in Minnesota take for granted the incredible health care quality that we have. We benefit from the best health care in the world right here in our hometown hospital. This is the birth place of many great innovations in medicine that date back to the Mayo brothers. Many people don’t realize how amazing this is, and they accept it as normal. But other places don’t have this great health care experience. I am very proud to be here as part of the Mayo Clinic miracle.05-14-2019 Meet the Expert Prieto

I also have a personal interest in understanding the factors that lead to high quality healthcare. With 20 years of experience at Mayo, I see up close every day what good health care looks like. I travel often and see how health care looks in other areas of the world, and as the medical director for international activities I had innumerable opportunities to discuss these issues with other healthcare leaders. If I wasn’t a surgeon, I would be interested in consulting with hospitals, healthcare organizations and government agencies on how to improve the quality of healthcare.

What is the best part of your work?

My best days at work are taking a young child to the operating room who typically has spent a good part of their short life sick and on dialysis and being able to change their life for the better. Seeing how that child, after a successful transplant, flourishes and is given a new full life is the most rewarding part of what I do. In fact, I can’t think of another job that could provide me with this kind of satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.

Describe one of your favorite or most rewarding work experiences.

My favorite experience is being able to transplant a patient that no one else thought was possible. A few years ago, we transplanted a child who nobody thought could ever be transplanted. He got the H1N1 flu after only a month in kindergarten and spent the next 2+ years in the hospital. He had more than 70 surgeries before he came to Mayo Clinic, and he was very weak and sick with multi-organ failure. We were able, through some preparatory surgery, to get him well enough to undergo a kidney transplant from his mother. If he hadn’t come to Mayo Clinic, and our team hadn’t agreed to think outside the box, he would not be with us today. He is now a happy, healthy teenager leading a normal life.

If you could change something about the kidney transplant field today, what would you change?

I wish we had enough organs to get everybody transplanted through tissue engineering and other techniques. I also would like us to make a greater effort to minimize the wait time for patients on the waiting list by promoting living and deceased organ donation.

Another great advancement would be to conquer “tolerance” so patients no longer need immunosuppression medications after a transplant. Research work is being done in all these areas, and I am very hopeful for the future.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The biggest challenge for me is the frustration that we can’t help everyone. Sometimes people are too weak and frail to benefit from these techniques. We do our best to help as many people as we can, but sometime we are just too late.

What are your interests or passions outside of work?

I love the outdoors. As far as I am concerned, an evening trail ride through the countryside around Rochester on horseback is the perfect way to end a day. I try to get out of town and camp with my family on most weekends in the summer. For my travel vacations, I choose the American West or a trip through Europe. In the winter, I like to go skiing to the Rockies or to the Alps.

I am also a classical music and opera lover. My favorite memory was to watch my wife, a concert pianist and a coach for opera singers, perform at Carnegie Hall. I did that twice!

What is your hope for kidney transplant in the coming years?

I hope we are successful at conquering immunological tolerance, so we don’t need to use long-term immunosuppression to prevent rejection in our patients. I also hope we can figure out, one way or another, how to solve the organ shortage problem. In the short term, I want to see Mayo Clinic continue to be a leader in preemptive kidney transplantation and kidney paired donation. These are the things that will help make transplantation an option for everyone who needs a lifesaving organ.

Join us in congratulating Dr. Prieto on his 20 years at Mayo Clinic, and we hope to have his skill and expertise for many more!


Tue, Apr 30 9:39am · New Transplant Blog Posts in Transplants

Good morning!
Today's blog post is one you might find helpful when planning for your summer getaways. Our transplant discussion group has held many conversations about how to travel safely before and after a transplant, so we took all those discussions and put them together into this post. Thank you to our discussion group for doing all this great work for us! 🙂


Have a wonderful day, transplant friends!

Tue, Apr 30 9:30am · Vacation Tips and Tricks for Transplant Patients in Transplant

It’s nearly summer and time for all of us to plan some summertime vacation fun! As a transplant patient, especially if you are recently transplanted, you might worry about leaving the safety of your home and doctors, even for a short time away. We hope this blog will help ease some of your travel concerns and give you some helpful tips to make your vacations safe and relaxing. Planning ahead is a great first step to staying healthy during a trip away. Thanks to our Transplant Discussion Group, we have collected some of their tips and tricks to help you plan for your vacations.2019-04-29 Vacation Blog Post


Whether flying or driving,  be prepared for the environment. When flying to your destination, remember to get up and move around the plane as often as you can. The circulation in your legs and arms will be helped by a quick walk down the aisle every hour or two. Bringing a small alcohol wipe to clean your tray table and armrests would help eliminate some of the surrounding germs. A mask is always a great option, especially for those planes full of children and families going on summer trips. When traveling by car, it’s easy to sit still in your seat for hours watching the countryside go by. Again, getting out and walking around every few hours will help eliminate the swelling and fluid retention, and get blood pumping through your limbs.


When booking a hotel, VRBO or Airbnb, especially for a extended time away, try to find one that has a kitchen where you can cook your own food. As a transplant patient, you likely have some food restrictions and are trying to keep your healthy eating in check. Having a kitchen will make it easy to cook instead of relying on restaurant and fast foods that might be loaded with salt and calories. Often hotels and rental properties aren’t cleaned as well as we would hope. Bringing along some disinfectant spray or wipes would allow you to disinfect surfaces, remotes, bathrooms and kitchens to avoid germs left behind from other guests.


If you aren’t able to cook meals in your hotel, or will be out all day sightseeing, packing your own snacks can help you maintain healthy eating. Many stores will have small backpack or bag-type coolers that you could use to pack your snacks and small lunches. Cut veggies, fruit, protein bars, and water bottles will help you stay full between meals and help with overeating at restaurants. Finding restaurants that serve baked or grilled fish or chicken, side veggies and salads can provide you with a filling meal without the grease and salt typically associated with fast food. One of our discussion group members even brings her own salad dressing to avoid the higher salt varieties found in most restaurants. And as most of us know, buffets may not be the best choice for transplant recipients. Buffet food can be easily contaminated by others, and may not be hot enough to cook off some of those germs that could be on the food itself.


When you travel, make sure to bring your medications in their actual containers. You never know when you might encounter a situation where someone needs to know which meds you are taking. If you use a daily pill box, fill it prior to leaving for vacation, but bring a few extra pills in their containers. You could encounter a delay and be away longer than expected. While it may be possible to obtain some emergency meds from a pharmacy where you are located, the process likely won’t be easy and will take up your precious vacation time.


Traveling in summer usually means spending time in the sunshine. As most of us know, sun is not a friend to post-transplant patients, especially when spending more time outside than usual. Sunscreen is a must. Make sure you have investigated the SPF content and amount of sunscreen you will need for your trip. Other protective gear that might be helpful can include sun hats, clothing that has built-in sun protection, an umbrella and long sleeves for those days outdoors.


In the unlikely situation that you should become sick while traveling, it’s a good idea to have your recent medical records with you in case a local emergency room needs to know your situation. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, your patient online services will have everything you need to show any physician or hospital staff. At a minimum, carrying your care team’s contact information would allow another doctor to contact your transplant team any time to ask questions and obtain your medical information.


Often during vacation, we find ourselves wanting to attend events where they are likely to be large crowds of people. Masks can be worn, especially when you are newly transplanted, to prevent cold and flu germs from others. Shaking hands can be avoided by using an elbow or fist bump, or simply explaining your unique situation and using a nod and a smile to say hello. If you have a choice in the timing of your event, some of our discussion group members recommend a matinee rather than an evening performance, as sometimes the afternoon showings will have a smaller crowd. Again, carrying those disinfectant wipes for the chair handles, tables, and other surfaces is always a great idea.

The dangers of germs can be eliminated in most situations by packing hand sanitizers, alcohol wipes, disinfectant sprays and masks for those situations with crowds. Make sure your food is piping hot, eat homemade snacks and meals when you can, and remember your medications! If you follow a plan and prepare well when traveling, you can have some amazing vacations with your family and friends without worrying about becoming ill during your trip!



Tue, Apr 16 10:35am · New Transplant Blog Posts in Transplants

Happy Spring Everyone!
As you likely know, April is Donate Life month so it's only fitting that we talk about organ donation, living donation, and transplantation during the month of April. The goal of Donate Life month is to bring awareness to the shortage of organs for those waiting and to encourage people to sign up to be donors. We have published a blog post today that we hope will do just that – convince those interested in donation to actually sign up – bridging the gap between interest and action. Share this blog with others who might be willing, but just haven't taken that step, and while you're at it, share your personal connection too if you are comfortable doing so. Sometimes that personal touch is what's needed for people to take the important action!
Have a wonderful day!


Wed, Apr 3 7:51am · New Transplant Blog Posts in Transplants

Hello everyone! This isn't our new blog post, but there's a new organ donation post on the Champions page you all should see. In case you have friends, relatives, or anyone who isn't yet an organ donor, share this information with them too!


Have a great day!

Wed, Mar 20 8:38am · New Transplant Blog Posts in Transplants

Good morning everyone!
Have you seen any of our infographics? For a few years, Mayo Clinic has partnered with news outlets around the country to publish information in a short and graphical way to help people understand transplant and organ donation. We wanted to give you an overview of some of the content we have published. You can find most of our infographics on the Mayo Clinic webpages, but here are a few easy clicks for you to view.


Let us know if there is a topic you would like to see explained this way!
Happy First Day of Spring!

Wed, Mar 20 8:10am · Infographics Round-Up in Transplant

Many forms of information exist when looking for quick and easy transplant education. Online search will produce many websites about transplant, living donation and healthy living. Patients should be careful about making sure their information comes from a trusted source.2019-2-20 Infographic Blog

Mayo Clinic’s Transplant Center has a web page, a discussion group, and online toolkits just to name a few resources for patients. Web pages are great, but when it comes to finding quick and sharable information, one of the best resources might be our infographics.

Over the years, we have produced many short, graphical pages to provide the public with easy-to-read information on many transplant topics. We’ve included some highlighted topics below.

What topics would you like to see in an infographic?