Dr. Shaw roasted, toasted for his accomplishments

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Bud Shaw reacts to one of the roaster's comments.
Transformational leader. Incredible surgeon. Person who changed the face of UNMC.

Those were among the superlatives given to Byers W. (Bud) Shaw Jr., M.D., when the legendary transplant surgeon and longtime chairman of the UNMC Department of Surgery was honored by 160 of his friends in a June 6 roast in the Michael F. Sorrell Center for Health Science Education.

The final roaster, UNMC Chancellor Harold M. Maurer, M.D., capped the event when he said, "There are very few leaders who are transformational. Bud has been a transformational surgeon and a transformational leader."

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The new UNMC surgery chairman, David W. Mercer, M.D. (left), gets together with the three previous UNMC surgery chairmen -- (from left) Paul Hodgson, M.D., Layton "Bing" Rikkers, M.D., and Bud Shaw, M.D.
Rod Markin, M.D., Ph.D., president of UNMC Physicians and emcee of the event, added to the festivities when he announced that a fund had been created at the University of Nebraska Foundation to establish an endowed chair in Dr. Shaw's honor.

The roast was prompted by Dr. Shaw stepping down as chairman of the department of surgery in 2008 after 12 years in the post. He first came to UNMC in 1985 from the University of Pittsburgh to start the medical center's liver transplant program and serve as chief of transplantation. He now serves as medical director of a new UNMC initiative to improve patient care and research by using electronic documentation tools.

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Dr. Shaw greets people prior to the roast. He's seen here with (left-right) Lois Colburn, Dmitry Oleynikov, M.D., and Sonja Kinney, M.D.
Laughs were plentiful, as the nine roasters delved into many of Dr. Shaw's non-medical talents, such as his passion for bicycling, photography, fast cars and creative writing. Additional laughs were generated by a handful of videos spun off from the Bud Light advertising campaign, "Real Men of Genius."

Some of the best anecdotes of the night included:

  • Layton "Bing" Rikkers, M.D., former surgery chairman at UNMC who recruited Dr. Shaw and is now at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said Dr. Shaw had no interest in coming to UNMC. "We convinced Bud to visit UNMC as a consultant. The whole time Dr. Sorrell and I were recruiting the hell out of him. Something magical happened when there was deer on the runway at Eppley Airfield (when Dr. Shaw was leaving town). As a flower child, it was an important omen to Bud."

  • Dr. Rikkers called Dr. Shaw a "Renaissance man." He said, "One day he would be writing poetry, the next day he would be hang gliding."

  • UNMC surgeon Iraklis Pipinos, M.D., giving a video toast to Dr. Shaw in his native Greek language.

  • UNMC transplant surgeon David F. Mercer, M.D., Ph.D., doing an imitation of actor Billy Bob Thornton in "Slingblade" in his video salute to Dr. Shaw.

  • A parade of faculty who chided Dr. Shaw for so rarely going into the operating room. "Chairman of the surgery department?" one roaster quipped. "I thought he was the department photographer."

Dr. Shaw's file

Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio

  • Undergraduate degree, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio; and
  • Medical degree, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
  • Surgery Residency, University of Utah
  • Fellowship in Transplant Surgery, University of Pittsburgh.
UNMC positions:
  • Chief of transplantation, 1985-1996;
  • Chairman, department of surgery, 1997-2008;
  • Medical director, Advanced Clinical Applications Project, 2008-present.
Key accomplishments at UNMC:
  • Helped establish world-class solid organ transplant program, including liver, kidney, pancreas, small bowel and heart transplants;
  • Was one of the masterminds of the Lied Transplant Center at UNMC, which brought unique cooperative care model to patients;
  • Performed liver transplants on James Redford, son of actor Robert Redford, and the late country western singer Chris LeDoux.

Dr. Shaw got in the last word when he responded to his roasters by encouraging them to pursue a "career in fiction writing, as they have a lot of talent for making things up."

He said he always intended to go back to Ohio and practice general surgery with his father. But that plan went out the window after he performed his first liver transplant.

Emotionally moved by the tribute, Dr. Shaw thanked UNMC staff for their "courage and dedication" and thanked all in attendance for being "lifelong friends."

What others are saying:

"I can't think of anyone who has done more for the University of Nebraska. He has been incredible to the development of this institution. He's a wonderful surgeon and a great friend." Michael Sorrell, M.D., a legendary UNMC liver disease specialist

"Bud is proof that one man can make a difference. He has the most brilliant mind and the best technical skills of any surgeon I've ever known." Frank Moody, M.D., chairman of the department of surgery at the University of Utah when Dr. Shaw did his surgery residency there

"Of all the people with whom I worked in Pittsburgh, I have always known you were the single most important individual in establishing the transplant oasis that grew up here. You managed to pull off the same trick in Nebraska." Thomas Starzl, M.D., Ph.D., professor of surgery, University of Pittsburgh, and one of the pioneers of organ transplantation

"The liver transplant program changed the face of UNMC." Rod Markin, M.D., Ph.D., president of UNMC Physicians

"Hiring Dr. Shaw was the best decision I ever made. It changed my academic career." Layton "Bing" Rikkers, M.D., former surgery chairman at UNMC who recruited Dr. Shaw and now at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

"(I came to UNMC because I saw) how much faith he has in the institution and the commitment he had." UNMC surgeon Iraklis Pipinos, M.D.

"I was at the American Transplant Congress (the weekend of the roast) and many expressed regret in being unable to attend and also offered congrats and all the best. None of what I have accomplished would have been possible without you taking a chance on some guy from Detroit! Carpe diem!" Alan Langnas, D.O., chief of transplantation


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Shirley Niemeyer
July 23, 2015 at 11:06 PM

Dr. Shaw along with Dr. Langnas performed a liver resection on me for Ovarian cancer which had spread to the liver. I believe it was the first liver resection for Ovarian Cancer at UNMC and I am alive today because of it and the many other great doctors at UNMC. I was diagnosed in 1992 with late 3rd or 4th stage Ovarian cancer that had spread to my intestines, diaphragm, etc. I had 5 operations and 5 different rounds of chemo which included a bone marrow transplant. I had an Autologous BMT under the management of Dr. Margaret Kessinger. I also had a combination of intraperitoneal chemotherapy and IV chemo in 1992 which the National Cancer Institute indicates is now the Gold Standard. I have been in remission now for ~ 12 years since last chemo and have survived as of 2015 for 23 years. I cannot thank UNMC medical doctors, nurses and staff enough for their work. They are world class medical professionals in a world class medical center. And in all that time, I managed to continue to work full time (except for 3 months during the BMT) as a faculty member at UNL. I never thought I would make it to retirement but I have. A salute to all of you. Shirley N.