Reinventing Liver Paired Exchange



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Who is Banu Bedestenci Sönmez?

Who is Banu Bedestenci Sönmez?


Banu Bedestenci Sönmez, the late wife of Tayfun Sönmez, courageously confronted cancer until her untimely passing in 2016. The lasting imprint of her name is embodied in the liver paired exchange system established at İnönü University—a poignant testament to the profound sacrifices she made, which ultimately enabled the realization of the system.

Approximately two decades ago, Tayfun, then a faculty member at Koç University, gained global recognition for his research on kidney exchange and student placement in public schools. These projects held immense potential to influence policies and bring tangible changes to institutions in the United States. Recognizing that implementing these ideas required a move to the US, Tayfun faced a challenging decision, one he shared with his wife Banu, whom he had married just a year earlier in 2002. Until then, Banu, a highly successful dentist in Istanbul deeply rooted in Turkey, had never considered leaving her homeland. Despite this, she willingly chose to support Tayfun's dream of creating a positive impact on the world through his research, making a significant sacrifice by agreeing to relocate to the US. She left behind a thriving career and social life to become a homemaker in the US.

Soon after Tayfun assumed his position at Boston College, he, along with collaborators Utku Ünver, Harvard professor Alvin Roth, and transplant surgeon Frank Delmonico, established the world's first kidney exchange system using economic design principles in the New England region. However, just as their efforts were beginning to yield results, tragedy struck the Sönmez family. In September 2006, Banu was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.

Despite the formidable health challenges she faced, Banu unwaveringly supported her husband's dreams until her passing in 2016.

In 2019, an agreement was reached between Tayfun, Utku, and Sezai Yılmaz, the Director of İnönü University Liver Transplantation Institute, leading to the establishment of a paired exchange system. This system, realized in 2022, is dedicated to Banu Bedestenci Sönmez, acknowledging the multitude of sacrifices that made its inception possible.