$2 Million Gift from Steelers Part-owner will Establish Pediatric Transplant Network

When Rob Citrone’s father became ill and needed a new kidney, the family got a crash course in the anguish of the organ donation waitlist.

The experience prompted Mr. Citrone, a hedge fund owner and a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his wife, Cindy, to launch a star-studded public awareness campaign promoting organ donation called Play it Forward Pittsburgh.

That campaign now includes at $2 million gift from the Citrones to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC to establish the Starzl Network for Pediatric Transplantation, named for pioneering surgeon Thomas Starzl, who died in March. The network will focus initially on establishing a data sharing network with other high-volume pediatric transplant programs.

“We are honored to support Children’s Hospital and build upon their transformative work in transplantation, giving children the opportunity to live a full life,” said the Citrones in a press release. “With this focus on collaboration, we can make the greatest impact by improving the outcomes for those who will live longest with their donor organ: the children.”

The information sharing network is modeled on one used by the Children’s Oncology Group that is credited with improving care. Nothing similar exists yet for pediatric organ transplantation, said Greg Barrett, president and chief development officer of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation. “Sharing data, it’s a lot harder than it sounds,” he said. “Medical data is extremely complex, everyone stores it in different ways on different platforms. These things, they are just incredibly complicated.”

The Citrones — both Western Pennsylvania natives — have pledged an additional $1 million in matching funds to support the network. At a launch event in New York to announce the donation on Nov. 30, attendees wrote $26,000 of checks on the spot, said Mr. Barrett. “Everybody wants to improve care and make every organ count,” he said.

The Starzl Network’s mission is to unite big data, technology, patient advocacy, and transplant thought leaders to deliver the best possible care and develop new, scalable solutions to pediatric transplantation’s most challenging problems. For more information, please visit: starzlnetwork.org