On October 5th, 2012, the University of Rochester Medical Center celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Liver Transplant Program at a fabulous Bollywood inspired Transplant Gala. The sold out crowd of 500 guests were treated to an evening of Indian dance, food, and the presence of a very special guest, former Miss World, Bollywood film superstar, and emerging pop diva Priyanka Chopra. The Gala’s main focus was to raise awareness on the miracle of organ donation, but also honored were the Liver Transplant Program’s founding father, world famous surgeon Dr. Seymour Schwartz, and the entire local Indian community for their contribution to medical and scientific excellence throughout the Rochester area.
After a glamorous red carpet entrance by Miss Chopra to adoring fans, she then met with several VIPs and gave an interview with the evening’s emcee, local television personality Doug Emblidge. Priyanka and her parents, Drs. Ashok and Madhu Chopra, were treated to performances by local Indian dance troupes from Cornell University, the University of Rochester, and Pittsford. She delighted the enthusiastic young dancers by joining in the fun at the very end of their performance.
The program continued over dinner with speeches by transplant surgeon Dr. Chris Barry (who briefly touched on the major points of his recently released TEDx talk on organ donation, including the memorable line: “If you’re not an organ donor when you die, then you’re taking a lot of people with you”), Transplant Division Chief Dr. Mark Orloff (who honored Dr. Schwartz and bestowed upon him a shining Ganesha statue), donor mother Helene Ehmann (who delivered a touching reminiscence of her son who became an organ donor), URMC CEO Dr. Brad Berk (who celebrated URMC Transplant, the Indian community, and introduced Priyanka Chopra), and the special keynote address by “PC”.
Priyanka’s address on organ donation was heartfelt and moving. She thanked URMC for providing expert and compassionate care to her father, who came all the way from India to receive his treatments, and then shared her personal reasons for pledging to become an organ donor. Here are some memorable quotes:
“I hope to God that when I die that I will be able to have so many people live on because of me.”
“No amount of charity that you’ve done all your life will equal donating your organs.”
“(Pledging to be an organ donor) is one of the things you will always be proud of all of your life because you know your life will be worth something.”
The evening carried on with festive dancing by all, sumptuous Indian desserts from Tandoor of India, a book signing by Dr. Schwartz, and opportunities for everyone to learn more about organ donation and take action to register as donors. All in all, it was an incredible success, especially thanks to Priyanka Chopra!