Arizona's First Heart Transplant Happened 40 Years Ago

March 27, 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the first heart transplant in Arizona. Norman “Dutch” Tarr, lived with deteriorating quality of life for four years following a major heart attack, according to reports in the Arizona Daily Star. In 1979 while hospitalized at what was then University Hospital, he decided to take the advice of his cardiologist Brendan Phibbs, MD, and become Arizona’s first heart transplant recipient. “One morning I was sitting on the edge of my bed feeling kind of glum, and Dr. Phibbs came in … all of a sudden I looked up at him and said, ‘You know, several times you’ve alluded to the fact that I should consider a heart transplant. Let us be the first.’” Dr. Phibbs responded, “Sport, Dr. (Jack) Copeland and I have been waiting for you to say that for six months.”

At the time, the University of Arizona was one of six heart transplant centers in the United States. Mr. Tarr lived with his new heart for four years, following a regimen of eating well, exercising and reducing stress in his life – sound advice for anyone seeking to prevent heart disease. Since that historic milestone, 934 hearts have been transplanted at Banner - UMC Tucson as of December 2018. Today, the Advanced Heart Disease Team includes five cardiologists board certified in advanced heart failure and transplant cardiology and four cardiothoracic surgeons. Read more about the team and the modern program

Organ donors save lives. Visit the Donor Network of Arizona for more information.

Jack Copeland, MD, was the cardiothoracic surgeon who established the heart transplant program at the University of Arizona - the 6th heart transplant center in the U.S. at the time.        Norman "Dutch" Tarr was the first heart transplant patient in Arizona, taking the advice of his cardiologist, Dr. Brendan Phibbs













Advanced Heart Disease Team 

Today's heart transplant team - Cardiologists: Nancy Sweitzer, Sophia Airhart, Khadijah Breathett, Mark Friedman, Elizabeth Juneman; Cardiothoracic surgeons: David Bull, Kenneth Fox, Toshinobu Kazui, Scott Lick