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Outlive Yourself Award: Inspiring surgeon recognized for impact in landmark uterus transplant clinical trials

In Women in Medicine, read stories of Baylor Scott & White physicians, leaders, employees and patients who are paving the way for women in the field of medicine.

When Liza Johannesson, MD, set out to become a doctor, she had no idea her path would one day bring her here — to Dallas, Texas, transplanting uteruses in women who were born without one.

First in her home country of Sweden and now at Baylor University Medical Center, Dr. Johannesson has played a pivotal role in making the impossible possible for these women. In all avenues of her life — as a surgeon, a woman and a mother of three — she’s inspiring others to know that they can make a difference.

Restoring the hope of motherhood

Although uterus transplantation has become the focus of her career, this wasn’t always her passion. Studying the field of gynecologic oncology, Dr. Johannesson was passionate about helping women who were facing cancer. Uterus transplants, she thought, were completely unrelated.

But as she started meeting young women who were born without a uterus and cervical cancer patients who had had their uterus removed at a young age, she realized that these women had lost hope of ever becoming mothers.

She had a chance to help restore that hope.

In 2014, she helped deliver the world’s first baby ever born from a uterus transplant. In total, eight babies have been born from that clinical trial in Sweden. In 2017, after being recruited to Baylor University Medical Center by Giuliano Testa, MD, she helped replicate that medical milestone for the first time in the U.S. A second baby was born in February.

“Being part of this has obviously changed my professional life, but I think it also changed me as a person,” Dr. Johannesson said. “You take things for granted, but when you meet these people who have these struggles, it makes you humble. They basically put their lives in our hands for a thing that’s not lifesaving. You realize how important this is for them.”

“Explore."

In recognition of the impact Dr. Johannesson is making on the field of medicine, she has been awarded the 2018 Outlive Yourself Award from Taylor’s Gift Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes organ donation.

Being selected for the Outlive Yourself Award is a testament to the impact these clinical trials have made, and continue to make, on the field of medicine.

Dr. Johannesson views this award as an honor for her and the rest of the uterus transplant teams, and as a symbol of how the work they’re doing is making a difference by giving hope to people across the world who struggle with infertility.

“I’m most proud of how the work we’re doing here is reaching out to the whole world,” she said. “What most people don’t realize is that 10 to 15 percent of all couples struggle with infertility in some way. I think what we’re doing is very important because it’s shedding light on the larger problem of infertility.”

An inspiration to all

A uterus transplant may not be lifesaving, but in Dr. Johannesson’s words, it is, in a way, “life-giving.”

For her, nothing compares to that moment in the delivery room when she holds up a beautiful, healthy baby and locks eyes with the new parents. The gratitude and joy she sees in their eyes is overwhelming.

As a physician, Dr. Johannesson is “outliving herself” by forever changing the fields of transplant surgery and gynecology. But as a woman and mother, she’s leaving a legacy of confidence and hope to women across the world, including her own three daughters.

Her message to all is simple: you can make a difference. Your future is only limited by your belief in yourself.

“What you put your heart into is what you can do,” she said. “Never feel like you can’t do something — because you can.”

Learn more about the uterus transplant clinical trials at Baylor University Medical Center.

About the author

Grace Glausier
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Grace Glausier is a senior digital engagement strategist for Baylor Scott and White Health. A graduate of Baylor University, she is passionate about connecting people through powerful stories and empowering individuals toward better health.

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Outlive Yourself Award: Inspiring surgeon recognized for impact in landmark uterus transplant clinical trials