National Kidney Registry Presents Four Awards to Leaders in the Transplant Community at 2024 Awards Gala

At its 2024 Awards Gala, held June 20 at The Plaza Hotel in New York City to honor kidney donors and the achievements of the American transplant industry, the National Kidney Registry presented four awards to exceptional members of the transplant community: the Terasaki Innovation Award was awarded to Drs. Joe Leventhal and Sandip Kapur, the Excellence in Physician Leadership Award was awarded to Dr. Mikel Prieto, and the Grace Under Pressure Award was given to Dr. Nicole Ali.

Terasaki Innovation Awards

The Terasaki Medical Innovation Award is given to an individual or organization that has invented, developed, or created breakthrough technologies in transplantation. This year, the award was given to two outstanding individuals: Dr. Joe Leventhal and Dr. Sandi Kapur.

Dr. Joe Leventhal

Dr. Joe Leventhal is the Surgical Director of the Kidney Transplant Program at Northwestern University. He was the principal investigator for the Phase 2 Clinical Trial that achieved a 70% success rate in weaning a large number of patients off of immunosuppressive medications. This was the first clinical trial in history that demonstrated the efficacy of achieving tolerance in unrelated donor-recipient pairs.

Dr. Leventhal is a pioneer in the development of cell-based therapies to achieve tolerance induction in solid organ transplant recipients, allowing transplant patients to eliminate the need for immunosuppressive medications. He has personally completed the most successful unrelated kidney transplant tolerance cases in the world.

“We are on the cusp of a new era of transplantation tolerance induction, and I am very excited to be working with the NKR,” said Dr. Leventhal in accepting the award.

Dr. Sandip Kapur

Dr. Sandip Kapur, Chief of Kidney Transplant at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, was the original driving force behind the National Kidney Registry’s Microsite Program, conceiving the idea in 2018 and becoming the first center to implement the program.

Today there are more than 4,000 active microsites supported by eight professional donor search coaches. Over 500 microsite patients have achieved a living donor transplant to date, and 40% of microsite patients receive a living donor transplant within two years of activating their microsite.

“The microsite project really was a simple idea. But so often the simple ideas can have the most profound effect,” said Dr. Kapur in accepting the award.

Excellence in Physician Leadership Award: Dr. Mikel Prieto

The Excellence in Physician Leadership Award is awarded to the physician who, through engagement, teamwork, and leadership, significantly improved the practice of kidney transplantation.

Dr. Mikel Prieto is a Kidney Donor & Recipient Surgeon at Mayo Clinic Rochester. His specialties are kidney and pancreas transplantation, preemptive and living donor transplantation, and laparoscopic nephrectomy for polycystic kidney disease. He and his team pioneered the removal of very large polycystic kidneys using a laparoscopic technique.

“Every donor kidney is a sacred organ,” said Dr. Prieto in accepting the award. “I think what the NKR has done has changed the field of transplantation more than anything else.”

Grace Under Pressure Award: Dr. Nicole Ali

The Grace Under Pressure Award is presented to an individual or organization that went above and beyond the call of duty to complete a swap under the most challenging circumstances.

Dr. Nicole Ali is the Medical Director, Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation, at NYU Langone Health. She was instrumental in facilitating a transplant for a highly sensitized patient who had been denied a second transplant due to the surgical and immunological complexity of her case. Dr. Ali spearheaded the effort that resulted in a successful transplant for the patient, even working during her Disney vacation.

“This award is a reflection of what we can achieve together, even under the most challenging circumstances. Thank you to everyone who played a part and to the donor whose kidney continues to give this patient excellent function today,” said Dr. Ali in accepting the award.

About the National Kidney Registry

The National Kidney Registry ( is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to save and improve the lives of people facing kidney failure by increasing the quality, speed, and number of living donor transplants while protecting all living donors.

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