Margery K. "Margie" Pozefsky, an artist and kidney transplant survivor who supported a kidney swapping transplant program at Johns Hopkins Hospital, died Friday of lung cancer at her Rockland home. She was 71.
"Margie was just a wonderful woman who had been one of our patients years ago and then endowed a professorship of kidney transplant surgery at Hopkins," said Dr. Julie A. Freischlag, chair of the Department of Surgery and surgeon in chief at Hopkins.
"It was a huge gift, and she also helped enhance our kidney swap program and computerized database," Dr. Freischlag said. "This was revolutionary, and she wanted to help as many people as possible get a kidney."
She described Mrs. Pozefsky as a very "sensitive and kind person who was both quiet and modest."
"Margie was someone who gave back to the community. She spoke quietly, kept her peace, and people listened," said Max E. Blumenthal, a Baltimore attorney and friend since junior high school.
"She had a moral compass that never needed to be adjusted," he said. "Wherever she went, she left her mark."
The daughter of a lumber dealer and a homemaker, the former Margery Kolker was born in Baltimore. After her parents divorced when she was 8, her mother married Sam Hecht, whose family was in the department store business.
She grew up on Upper Parks Heights Avenue and later moved with her family to the Velvet Valley neighborhood of Baltimore County.
Mrs. Pozefsky was a member of the last Park School class to graduate in 1959 from its old Park Circle campus and studied for three years at Elmira College.
She returned to Baltimore and earned a bachelor's degree in liberal arts in 1963 from McCoy College of the Johns Hopkins University.
She was married that year to Richard Peyton, and the couple had three children. After a divorce in 1978, she went to work part time in the Office of the Public Defender and for Associated Jewish Charities.
She worked during three election campaigns for Sen. Paul A. Sarbanes, particularly as an assistant to Christine Sarbanes, his late wife, and in Stephen Sachs' campaign for Maryland attorney general.
She married Dr. Thomas Pozefsky, a Baltimore internist and endocrinologist in 1989.
In 2000, she needed a kidney transplant. Her husband's did not match, but her son's did.
"As a result of the transplant at Hopkins, she had the gift of 12 wonderful years," her husband said.
Mrs. Pozefsky's illness raised her awareness that there might be others in a similar situation: the "combination of a needy patient and a willing donor who didn't match," her husband said.
"Why wasn't swapping possible? For example, couldn't her husband donate his kidney to the needy patient if it matched and she receive the kidney from that patient's available donor also in the event of a match?" Dr. Pozefsky said.
"Hopkins was receptive to the idea, and Margie provided the resources to set up a database of potential kidney recipients, their donors, and their tissue types so that live donor transplants could be achieved by swapping," he said.
Mrs. Pozefsky traveled the country speaking at national kidney transplant meetings promoting the kidney database.
Dr. Pozefsky said the program has "expanded exponentially" and affected federal law regulating transplants. He said it has "become a generally accepted standard of care and has dramatically increased the number of live donor transplants in the country."