Dr. Atul Mehta, a transplant physician, saved the life of one of his patients, whom he had selected as a match to receive a double lung transplant. As a thank you, the woman whose life he saved, Lori Buoncore, gave the facility where Mehta works, the Cleveland Clinic, a $2 million gift in the form of the Buoncore Family Endowed Chair in Lung Transplantation.
“I was humbled by Mrs. and Mr. Buoncore’s generosity,” Mehta said. “I knew that this type of recognition comes with higher responsibility. I feel obligated to the entire transplant community.” Now, a year after the surgery, Buoncore is doing well. The national survival rate post-transplant surgery is more than 80 percent. “Saving someone’s life is beyond my capabilities,” Mehta noted. “My professional career is built upon providing my patients honest opinion and helping them make right decision for their health.”
Mehta selects patients for lung transplant and takes care of them after the transplantation is done. Buoncore, 60, in 2008 was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease – a disease that damages lung tissues, inflames the air sacs, and can cause permanent scarring of the tissues between the air sacs, making it very difficult to breathe.
Needing a lung transplant, Buoncore turned to Mehta and went on the transplant list in August 2014. She was notified of a match that was available just three months later in November 2014. She checked in and received a double lung transplant. “Proper selection of the recipient as well as the donor and the lifelong care of the transplant patient is equally important for the successful outcome,” the 62-year-old physician told India-West.
Mehta was born in Gujarat and currently resides in Moreland Hills, Ohio. He earned his undergraduate degree at Saint Xaviers College in Ahmedabad and his medical degree at N.H.L. Municipal Medical College at Gujarat University. Following medical school, Mehta completed an internship and residency in Ahmedabad, then residencies in Drexel Hill and Easton, Penn., as well as in Trenton, N.J. Additionally, he completed a fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic.
With decades of experience, Mehta said receiving a life-saving transplant is often a second chance at life.
“Many patients consider their transplant date as their second birth date,” he said. Buoncore and her husband Rick took the successful transplant and subsequent treatment to another level with the $2 million gift. The endowed chair, which is in the Buoncore name, was intended to have Mehta’s name, but he declined the offer. However, the Buoncores have said once the pulmonologist retires, the chair for the Lung Transplant Program will shift into his name.
Mehta has accomplished a lot in his career, including receiving the Gustav Killian Centenary Award for contributions in the field of bronchoscopy and interventional pulmonology by the World Association for Bronchology and Interventional Pulmonology, and the Pasquale Ciaglia Award for contributions in the field of interventional pulmonology by the American College of Chest Physicians.
He has also previously received funding by the Brundige family for bronchoscopy work. Despite all he has achieved, Mehta truly remains humbled. “Having an endowed chair is an honor,” he said. “But my bigger honor is when a patient asks me to participate in his or her medical care.”