Peter Steven Yoo, MD, is director of Yale Medicine’s Pediatric Kidney Transplantation Program, and the Paired Kidney Exchange Program, which allows donor/recipient pairs to “swap” with each other so that each recipient gets a compatible organ.
As a transplant surgeon for Yale Medicine, Dr. Yoo is part of the largest kidney transplantation program in New England, and a member of a team of doctors who routinely perform liver and kidney transplants that involve living donors. He has participated in Connecticut’s first kidney exchange to involve eight patients—four donors and four recipients—in 2015 at Yale New Haven Hospital. He meets regularly with other transplant specialists to establish personalized treatment recommendations for each new patient.
“The greatest thing about the field of transplantation is that it’s very young. We are still at the dawn of this field,” says Dr. Yoo. While modern surgery has been around for more than 100 years, surgeons have been performing successful organ transplantations for only 50 or 60 years, he says. “I think the lesson to be learned is that it pays to be daring. It took a lot of creativity and courage and pioneers in our field to remove body parts from one person and put them into another, and to see that wild experiment work. It’s important for us as a profession to keep that daring spirit alive.”
An assistant professor of transplant surgery at Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Yoo is also interested in research aimed at understanding geographic variations in patterns of organ donation. In addition to performing transplant surgeries, he cares for both children and adults with tumors, injuries, and other disorders of the liver and bile ducts. He provides surgical care of patients with polycystic kidney disease (an inherited disorder in which clusters of cysts form on the kidneys), and general surgery for patients with end-stage organ failure.
Dr. Yoo says one of the most important parts of his work is communicating with patients to make sure they understand what will be involved in their transplant. Transplantation is a high-tech field, and it’s important to use words everyone can understand, he says. He enjoys every interaction with patients. “It’s always simulating. Every day I go home knowing that I did something good for someone.”