Catalyst for Change
Last April, Feras Altwal, MS ’14 was part of a team that supported the first trachea transplant in the United States — on 2-year-old Hannah Warren. “I had previously spent three years in Jordan assisting with around 300 stem cell surgeries for numerous diseases,” he noted. “However, this surgery completely stands out from all the rest, both in terms of work experience and the emotional aspect.”
A 2009 graduate of Philadelphia University in Amman, Jordan, Altwal moved to the U.S. in April 2012, after Dr. Mark Holterman recruited him to assist with stem cell research and clinical trials, specifically Warren’s case. Three months later, he met Dr. Craig Cady, associate professor of biology, during discussions about collaborating on the procedure. Cady then suggested he pursue a master’s in biology at Bradley.
“Working in Dr. Cady’s lab incredibly facilitated the process and prepared me even more for the work I did during the surgery,” Altwal explained.
While he had been helping with preparations for nearly a year, he also participated directly in the operation. In addition to transporting and evaluating samples from the bioartificial trachea prior to the surgery, he “collected blood samples from Hannah every other day for three weeks after the procedure for further confirmatory testing.”
Altwal plans to enroll in a doctoral program next fall, a goal he attributes to Warren: “Hannah motivated all those involved to have high hopes and remain positive through any encountered obstacles. It is because of the lasting impact this surgery made on me that I became certain of my will to incorporate clinical work in my future career.”