Red McCombs legacy lives on in $1 million donation for children needing organ transplants

San Antonio lost entrepreneur and philanthropist B.J. “Red” McCombs in February, but his legendary commitment to our community continues, with a $1 million contribution from the McCombs Foundation to the pediatric transplant program at the University Health Transplant Institute. The generous donation will support the growth of our nationally recognized children’s transplant program and the appointment of transplant surgeon Dr. Danielle M. Fritze as the McCombs Surgical Director of Pediatric Transplantation. It is University Health’s first endowed position.

"It's an honor to have the McCombs name tied to the esteemed Dr. Danielle Fritze, knowing the impact she will have on our community, on families and on the lives of children,” said Marsha Shields, daughter of Red McCombs and president of the McCombs Foundation. 

Shields said Fritze’s accomplishments exemplify the drive for excellence and innovation that Red McCombs supported in his business and charitable ventures.

“She pushes the boundaries of excellent medical care, saving more lives and allowing even more children to live healthy, fulfilling lives without medical limits," Shields said.

Fritze joined the Transplant Institute in 2016 and has served as its surgical director for pediatric liver transplant since 2019. In that position she has led significant quality improvement initiatives and promoted living donor liver transplantation, efforts that have contributed to the recent recognition of the Transplant Institute’s liver program as being the best in the country.

University Health Transplant Institute has the only living donor liver transplant program for children in Texas. Its survival outcomes for children receiving livers and kidneys are excellent, in part because of its success in attracting living donors. Patients with organs from living donors tend to receive their life-saving transplants within weeks or months instead of years, and often have better outcomes.

“It's inspiring that the McCombs Foundation would want to make the pediatric transplant program part of their legacy,” said Fritze. “It's also a responsibility for us to use that gift for the greatest benefit it can have for the kids.”

Fritze has demonstrated leadership and commitment by serving as Associate Medical Director for the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, as a member of the national liver review board for the United Network for Organ Sharing and as medical director for Transplants for Children, a local non-profit that supports pediatric transplant recipients.

Throughout her career, she has received accolades for improving the technical skills of future transplant surgeons. In her new endowed position, she plans to further enhance medical training, expand outreach aimed at recruiting organ donors for pediatric patients and continue to build a program that helps young transplant recipients transition to adulthood.

“Adolescence can be a time of higher risk as kids go through many changes and evolve into adults. It's a process of empowering the teenager to take responsibility for their own health, their own medications, and commit to understanding what’s necessary to maintain health,” Fritze explained.

Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, a surgeon and director of the University Health Transplant Institute, stressed the importance of the McCombs’ endowment creating a sustainable position that will ensure the program is a leader in pediatric transplantation. Cigarroa is also director of the Alvarez Transplant Center at UT Health San Antonio. 

“Dr. Fritze’s leadership is transforming the lives of children in need of a lifesaving liver transplant in San Antonio and the entire region we serve. The distribution of funds from this endowment will help us achieve our pledge in achieving excellence focused on saving the lives of children,” Cigarroa said.

Dr. Frtize holding pediatric patient Ariella Gomez
Dr. Fritze holding pediatric transplant patient, Ariella Gomez.
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