Dr. Penn graduated from the University of Witwatersrand Medical School in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1952. After completing his internship and residency in South Africa, he went to England where he continued his training and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1956. He came to the United States in 1962, and in 1967, he moved to Denver where he joined transplantation pioneer Thomas Starzl, MD at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. It was shortly thereafter that Dr. Penn identified an increased incidence of malignancy in transplant recipients and subsequently founded the Denver Transplant Tumor Registry in 1968.
In 1982, Dr. Penn accepted appointments as Professor of Surgery at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and Chief of Surgery at the Cincinnati Veterans Administration Hospital. He later became the Director of Surgical Student Education at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. With his move to Cincinnati, the Denver Transplant Tumor Registry became known as the Cincinnati Transplant Tumor Registry (CTTR).
Dr. Penn became the first person to report on the increased incidence of malignancies following transplantation. Shortly after establishing the CTTR, he became internationally recognized as one of the foremost authorities on the topic of transplant-related malignancies. Spanning a period that exceeded three decades, he recorded data on more than 15,000 transplant-related malignancies. The data from these experiences has resulted in over 400 presentations, more than 400 publications, and numerous chapters on the topic in medical publications. Dr. Penn also wrote some of the earliest papers on pregnancy in transplant patients. During his lifetime, he became recognized as one of the country’s most prominent leaders in the field of organ transplantation.
In 1997, Dr. Penn received the Outstanding Teacher Award from the National Association of Surgical Education, and in 1998, he received the Dolly Cohen Award from the University of Cincinnati for excellence in teaching. In May 1999, he received the Roche Award for outstanding scientific achievement from the American Society for Transplantation. This award was given by the Society to honor a Senior Investigator who it viewed as having made an enormous contribution to the fields of transplantation, medicine, and immunology. Prior to his death, the United States Department of Veteran Affairs created and named in his honor an award in recognition of his lifetime of extraordinary accomplishment in medical education, exemplary practice of medicine as both an art and a science, and lifelong service to the veteran community, students, and colleagues.
Dr. Israel “Sol” Penn passed away on November 18, 1999 after a courageous battle with lymphoma. His wife Zelda, and his children Jonathan and Michelle survive him.