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Transplant pioneer dies in Utah car crash

A retired UA College of Medicine surgery professor who performed Tucson's first kidney transplant died Monday morning after being seriously injured in a car crash, a Utah Highway Patrol spokesman confirmed Thursday.


Dr. Charles F. Zukoski III, 83, was taken to University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, Sunday evening after he lost control of his 2002 Isuzu Rodeo and rolled across two lanes of traffic, said Cameron Roden, a spokesman for Utah Highway Patrol.

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No other vehicles were involved in the accident.


His wife, Elizabeth J. Zukoski, 81, was also hospitalized and was listed in serious condition Wednesday night. Roden could not confirm her condition Thursday evening.


Zukoski performed southern Arizona's first kidney transplant in 1970 at the Southern Arizona Veteran's Administration Hospital while serving on the faculty at the UA.


He joined the UA Department of Surgery as a founding professor in 1969. The College of Medicine was only two years old at the time.


John Madden, a close friend of Zukoski, ran the UA Department of Surgical Biology and started working with Zukoski in 1969.


""He was a great, great, great, great friend,"" he said.


According to an announcement sent out by Rainer Gruessner, professor and chairman of the UA Department of Surgery, Zukoski was ""instrumental in increasing awareness of the need for more organ donors during the 1980s.""


In 1986, Zukoski, along with heart transplant surgeon Jack Copeland, co-authored an Arizona law that requires hospitals to ask families to consider donating organs of deceased patients. This law was designed to increase the number of available donors.


""He brought modern surgical procedures here to southern Arizona,"" Madden said.


""He was a great teacher and was instrumental in the University of Arizona teaching program.""


Before beginning his work at the UA, Zukoski was an associate professor of surgery at Vanderbilt University as well as the University of North Carolina.


He served as chief of general surgery at the UA, and chief of surgical service and the section of renal transplantation at the VA Hospital.


Zukoski retired from the department in 1995. He sponsored an award given every year at the general surgery residency graduation for Outstanding Role Model in Surgery.


Zukoski is survived by his four children — Elizabeth, Charles, Robin and Ann.


Madden, who was also good friends with Zukoski's wife Elizabeth, thought the two of them were a great team.


""The both of them were a unit,"" Madden said. ""She was equally as astounding, and I just hope she makes it.""


Madden said Zukoski was a great teacher and a great friend.


""He was superb,"" he said. ""Some of his original work is really terrific, he's been a pioneer in organ transplant work.""


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Updated October 22, 2021