Silke V. Niederhaus, M.D., Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery, University of Maryland School of Medicine and Transplant Surgeon, University of Maryland Medical Center

Although she’s lived in the United States since 1996, Dr. Silke V. Niederhaus still calls herself “a stubborn German.”

Case in point: she decided quite early in life she would become a physician. “When I was a healthy 4-year-old, I was fascinated by medicine. It just came naturally to me. I had all of my doctor toys,” says Niederhaus, now 42, a native of the southern German city of Sindelfingen. By the time I needed a kidney transplant at age 11, I told my doctor I would someday be a transplant surgeon.

The experience of being a transplant patient greatly informed her as a doctor, says Niederhaus, who specializes in kidney and pancreas transplants, laparoscopic and single-port donor nephrectomy, and dialysis access at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Niederhaus feels people generally aren’t aware how badly organ donors are needed or how long prospective recipients wait, often five years or more for a deceased donor transplant. 

She hopes to change that with her own story unfolding today at UMMC’s Transplant Center, among the top 10 living donor transplant programs in the United States.

A transplant from a living kidney donor can improve the chance of long-term survival, shorten the wait time and allow for a scheduled surgery. Niederhaus always advises her patients to seek a living donor if possible. 

That advice was never more poignant than this year.

Her original transplanted kidney lasted quite long, 30 years, but in 2014, it began to fail, with slightly abnormal kidney function. This year, as her own kidney failure progressed, she began looking for a living donor. In June, she received a living donor kidney transplant and is doing quite well.

While a transplant can be a lifesaving cure for kidney disease, Niederhaus says an organ recipient has essentially exchanged one chronic disease for another. “You still need to take your medication and see your doctor frequently.” Good advice from a doctor who knows what works.

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