Medical Miracles

Some of the most unforgettable experiences for Rodrigo Vianna, MD, PhD, are when he comes across a patient who is now an adult and he performed a transplant on them as a baby. Seeing them older, living healthy lives, doing the things they love, is an ongoing inspiration.
Words by Sandy Lindsey | Photo courtesy of Jackson Health System | August 28, 2021 | People

“I’ve made it a goal of mine to change and improve the national statistics of individuals waiting for an organ, and create a successful transplant program to save as many lives as possible.”

While his grandfather and the other doctors in his family inspired his initial love of medicine, it was during his residency program, that Rodrigo Vianna, MD, PhD, Director of the Miami Transplant Institute (MTI) and Chief of Liver, Intestinal & Multivisceral Transplant, found his life’s true mission. He was fortunate to witness a life-saving liver transplant in the operating room, and that moment changed everything. 

“I have dedicated my career to giving hope and the gift of life to patients in desperate need of a life-saving organ transplant. As a surgeon, I’ve witnessed the suffering of patients, who remain on a national organ waiting list for months, praying for the call that a match has been found for them,” he says. “Some of these patients are in need of up to eight organs, and have been given zero chance of survival. Under our care, several of them have been able to survive a highly complex multi-organ transplant and go on to lead normal lives.”

This is all thanks to the multidisciplinary team at the Miami Transplant Institute, a unique affiliation between Jackson Health System and UHealth — University of Miami Health System. Many of his patients, including children, have traveled from other parts of the country and internationally to seek his care. Currently, MTI is the largest transplant center in the nation in volumes for pediatrics and adults.

Dr. Vianna began his career as a research fellow and then clinical fellow for transplant at Jackson Memorial Hospital more than 15 years ago. “Since returning to MTI, my vision has remained focused on growing and creating several successful programs, including intestinal and multivisceral transplant, liver transplant, and living donor kidney transplants,” he says. “These programs have resulted in shorter waiting times for an organ, as well as better outcomes and survival rates.” 

Additionally, he’s trained more than 100 doctors from different countries, who then return to establish transplant programs in their own homelands — many of those including places where organ transplant surgeries were never an option before;