In recognition of his contributions to the people of Ukraine, Robert Montgomery, MD, DPhil, the H. Leon Pachter, MD, Professor of Surgery, chair of the Department of Surgery, and director of the NYU Langone Transplant Institute, was presented Thursday, September 21, 2023, with the Order of Merit, III Degree, medal by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at a ceremony at the National Archives in Washington, DC.
Dr. Montgomery has visited Ukraine three times since the Russian invasion began in early 2022 to assist a Lviv transplant center, performing multiple transplant surgeries during each visit as well as hand-delivering much-needed surgical equipment and medical supplies. Dr. Montgomery will travel to Ukraine for a fourth time on Sunday, September 24, to perform two living donor kidney transplants.
While he did not know he would be receiving a formal recognition upon invitation to the ceremony by the Ukrainian ambassador, Dr. Montgomery expressed deep gratitude and appreciation of the honor and having the opportunity to meet Zelenskyy and Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska.
“It was such an amazing surprise to receive this honor, and meeting them was just extraordinary,” said Dr. Montgomery. “Zelenskyy is a Churchill-like figure, and certainly, in my lifetime, he is perhaps the greatest example of someone who has been challenged in a way that is unfathomable, and he has risen to it. He has this aura about him that is inspiring.”
Beyond the recognition, Thursday was a special day for Dr. Montgomery, who received a hepatitis C–positive heart transplant five years ago on September 21. He had a congenital heart disease that led to seven cardiac arrests over his lifetime, and being the first surgeon in the world to receive an implantable defibrillator. Despite that adversity, he built great success as a transplant surgeon, setting a world record for the number of paired kidney swap donations in a single day, building the nation’s highest-quality transplant center at NYU Langone, and becoming the first surgeon to transplant a genetically engineered pig kidney into a human in a major step toward addressing the nation’s organ shortage.
The Order of Merit, which has three degrees, is a Ukrainian government recognition given to individuals for outstanding achievements in economics, science, culture, military, or political spheres of activity. The recognition carries with it the title of Chevalier of the Order of Merit.
Watch the ceremony via PBS NewsHour.