Starzl documentary to have public premiere in April

Dr. Thomas Starzl

Last summer during a celebration of a new statue of Dr. Thomas Starzl near the Cathedral of Learning, about 700 people got to see “Burden of Genius” — a documentary about Starzl  — in a private screening.

Now, the film will have its official public premiere in April at the Carnegie Science Center on the North Side.

The documentary details Starzl’s 60-year career, including the world’s first successful liver transplant in 1967 at the University of Colorado University Hospital.

Starzl joined the Pitt School of Medicine in 1981 as professor of surgery and led a team of surgeons who performed 30 liver transplants that year, launching the first liver transplant program in the country.

Until he retired from clinical and surgical service in 1991, Starzl served as chief of transplantation services at Presbyterian University Hospital (now UPMC Presbyterian), Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and the Veterans Administration Hospital in Pittsburgh, overseeing the largest and busiest transplant program in the world. He then assumed the title of director of the Pitt Transplantation Institute, which was renamed the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute in 1996.

Starzl, considered the “father of organ transplantation,” died on March 4, 2017, at 90.

“Burden of Genius” was co-produced by Carl Kurlander, senior lecturer in Pitt’s Film and Media Studies Program. The film, which debuted last March at the Cinequest Film Festival in Redwood City, Calif., and has had several private screenings, was named a finalist at the Raw Science Film Festival and won the global health competition at the Cleveland International Film Festival.

The summary on the film’s website says: “Fueled by coffee, cigarettes and the odd 10-minute catnap on any available horizontal surface, he pushes himself relentlessly, acquiring mythic status and attracting the most talented young surgeons in the world who now run most of its top transplant centers.”

It will be shown multiple times from April 12 to 18 at the Carnegie Science Center, as part of National Donate Life Month. For showtimes and tickets, visit the Carnegie Science Center online.

The 4 p.m. April 13 showing of “Burden of Genius” will include a special presentation on organ transplantation and a Q&A session after the film.