Trinity Health Kidney Transplant Center Celebrates 50 Years

New advancements include National Kidney Registry and robotic nephrectomies

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (February 2, 2023) – In 2023, the Trinity Health Kidney Transplant Center in Grand Rapids celebrates its 50th anniversary. Since its opening in 1973, more than 2,800 kidney transplants have occurred, improving the lives not only of the patients but of their loved ones and caregivers.

The Trinity Health Kidney Transplant Center is the only adult kidney transplant center in West Michigan and has continued to stay on the forefront of clinical advancements.

“Our main priority is to provide our patients with individualized, compassionate and expert care. Over the last 50 years, our program has become one of the largest and most successful community hospital-based transplant programs in the country,” said Jill McNamara, MSN, RN, Transplant Services liaison for the Kidney Transplant Center.

“Our team takes great pride in reaching this 50-year milestone. One of the ways we are celebrating is to reflect on the patient stories that show our team just how many people have been touched by their care,” McNamara continued. “As we look forward to the next 50 years and beyond, we will continue to focus on our patients and their families, offering advanced surgical techniques and innovative donor options that offer more hope to our patients.”

In 2022, the Trinity Health Kidney Transplant Center became the only adult transplant center in Michigan to partner with the National Kidney Registry (NKR), the largest paired donation program in the world. The NKR has the largest living donor pool, making the likelihood of finding a match potentially faster than other paired programs.

One of the latest technological innovations, robotic live donor nephrectomy, has created even more opportunities for live kidney donation. A live kidney donation is when a kidney is removed from one healthy patient and donated to a patient who has renal/kidney failure. Previously, these nephrectomies were performed laparoscopically, using small incisions, with the surgeon using his hands during the procedure.

“With a robotic procedure, we still make incisions into the abdomen, but instead of using just two hands, a surgeon has four robotic arms available at one time to also control the instruments and camera,” said Joel Stracke, DO, surgical director of the Kidney Transplant Center. “The nice thing about this approach is that we are able to make the large incision needed to remove the kidney much lower on the patient’s abdomen — under the pant line.” 

The robot not only offers remarkable precision during surgery, but studies have shown that following a robotic donor nephrectomy, patients experience less pain and less need for narcotics.

The Trinity Health Kidney Transplant Center currently has six surgeons and five nephrologists. In 2022, it completed 102 transplant surgeries: 37 living donor recipients and 65 deceased donor recipients. There are approximately 300 patients at the center currently on the waiting list, 155 of which were added last year.

To learn more about the Trinity Health Kidney Transplant Center or how to become a living kidney donor, visit

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