Another Record-Breaking Year for the Gift of Life: Intermountain Health’s Transplant Program and Patients to Celebrate Life-Saving Medical Milestone

2023 was another record-breaking year for the adult organ transplant programs at Intermountain Health, which helped saved the lives of hundreds of patients in Utah and surrounding states needing a gift – often from a stranger.

The Intermountain Health Transplant program, based at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, transplanted 414 organs in 2023 thanks to the generosity of donors, their families, and a skilled team of transplant caregivers dedicated to saving and changing lives.

It’s the fifth consecutive year that the Intermountain Health Transplant Program has performed a record-breaking number of adult transplants. A total of 182 liver, 198 kidney, 30 heart, and 4 kidney/pancreas adult transplants were performed in 2023. That’s a 38 percent increase from 2022, when the team performed 300 transplants. 

Over the past 38 years, the Intermountain Heart Transplant Program has grown into a national model and is recognized as a center of excellence with high-quality outcomes. 

“This unprecedented growth in our transplant program reflects how our dedicated multidisciplinary team has lived up to our mission of helping as many people live the healthiest lives possible,” said Jean Botha, MD, transplant surgeon and medical director of Intermountain Health’s abdominal transplant program. “The increased number of transplants is evidence that our team of caregivers are making transplantation possible for even the most complex patients with high-quality outcomes.”

Dr. Botha says these successes motivate the transplant team to play an even bigger role in changing the landscape of organ transplantation across the Mountain West and nationally.

The largest increase was in the liver transplant program, which grew from 104 transplants in 2022 to 182 in 2023 – and is now ranked ninth in the United States among 126 other transplant programs with the shortest wait time in the nation.

Across the country, 103,000 people are currently on the transplant list, waiting for a kidney, liver, pancreas, heart or lungs. Every nine minutes another person is added to the wait list. In Utah, 885 people are on that waiting list. 

“We are partners in health, collaborating to keep people well, irrespective of where they live,” said Richard Gilroy, MD, transplant hepatologist and Intermountain Health’s liver transplant medical director. “We say, ‘Yes’ more often and we go to where people are to provide as much high quality of care locally as is possible. However, this is ONLY achieved through relationships with the exceptional teams of clinicians and care givers that exist in the areas that surround us here at IMED.”
The success of Intermountain’s transplant program, which serves patients throughout the nation, is also the result of increased innovation, communication, and collaboration with community partners, as well as improved patient processes and education. 

“It’s through this collaboration that we grew from a program averaging 36 transplants per year in 2018 to over 180 liver transplants in 2023 to become a top 10, and one of the largest liver transplant programs in the country. And there is no plan to stop providing life-saving opportunities to those in the state of Utah and those in the states around us,” said Dr. Gilroy.

“It’s exciting and rewarding to be part of a heart program where we have 100% patient survival rate at three years post-heart transplant, which is one of the best in the country,” said Rami Alharethi, MD, medical director of the Intermountain Heart Transplant and Artificial Heart Program at Intermountain Medical Center.

Intermountain is also considered a leading program nationally in the Kidney for Life Program – transplanting exceptionally well-matched living kidney donors from a national pool.

In October, the National Kidney Registry named Intermountain Health’s Transplant program as the top Kidney for Life program in the U.S. for successfully matching kidney donors to patients in need of a life-saving kidney transplant using Eplet matching.

“Using this technology, we are able to provide the best option for our kidney transplant recipients,” said Donald Morris, MD, Intermountain Health kidney transplant medical director. “When a kidney is well matched, it should last longer with fewer side effects, fewer complications and lower risk for rejection.”

Double Donation
Doctors are used to saving lives, but they often don’t find themselves doing so by donating an organ – not once but twice. But that’s exactly what Cara Heuser, MD, a maternal fetal medicine physician at Intermountain Health, did when she volunteered to be a living liver donor in 2020 and then again in 2023 as a living kidney donor. 

Dr. Heuser is a physician, wife, mother of two and now a two-time Good Samaritan or non-directed organ donor, but don’t call her a hero.

“It is important to keep in mind that although donors get called heroes, the real heroes of these stories are the recipients and their families,” said Dr. Heuser. “I’m in awe of the courage and grace they show in the face of circumstances they didn’t and wouldn’t choose, of the perseverance and advocacy on behalf of their child, and their generosity to now include me in their lives.”

Can’t Say No
In 2017, Harold “Hal” McNeil, 64, Hurricane, was diagnosed with non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) and two tumors were also discovered when he had his gallbladder removed. 

His hepatologist was monitoring him and then just last January when another growth was discovered, he was moved up on the transplant wait list. 

Just six months later he got the call that a liver was available to him. He initially said, “No,” “I can’t do that. That’s too fast, there’s others that have been on the transplant list longer than me. Others are more deserving.”

But this liver was a perfect match for McNeil that the transplant team and Intermountain Life Flight flew thousands of miles to pick up. 

McNeil thought of his three kids, nine grandkids, and his better-half and said, “I can’t say, No!”

On July 7, 2023, he got that new liver and a new lease on life and says he has had no pain since being discharged and feels extra blessed, happy, and lucky he will be there for his family.

To learn more about organ donation or register to become an organ donor, go to  



2023 was another record-breaking year for the adult organ transplant programs at Intermountain Health