Indian Transplant Newsletter. Vol.20 Issue No.63. July 2021 - October 2021

The story of first African-American to receive a Face Transplant


Since 2005, a mere 50 face transplants have been performed worldwide. Face transplants are rare, but Robert Chelsea (68) is different than most patients who received this procedure. He is the first African-American to undergo the procedure as his face was severely disfigured after a catastrophic car accident five years back. Refusing the first replacement face offered to him in May 2018, he spent a couple of years on a waiting list before his second face was ready.

The first time the face offered belonged to a man whose skin was much fairer and this made Chelsea think that this would give completely a different look and hence he declined. The second offer was his near perfect skin-color match. This made him both the first African-American to undergo a face transplant and the oldest recipient ever.

Because of mistrust of the medical system, many African- Americans are wary about becoming donors contributing to organ shortage; in turn, while 30% of white patients on the wait list received an organ, only 17% of black patients got one in 2015.

Marion Shuck, president of the Association for Multicultural Affairs in Transplantation (AMAT) said that having a visible, tangible reference, especially for African-Americans is so needed and Chelsea's story could inspire potential donors with transplant's positive impact.


How to cite this article:
- Sujatha S, Shroff S. The story of first African-American to receive a Face Transplant. Indian Transplant Newsletter. Vol.20 Issue No.63. July 2021 - October 2021

How to cite this URL:
- Sujatha S, Shroff S. The story of first African-American to receive a Face Transplant. Indian Transplant Newsletter. Vol.20 Issue No.63. July 2021 - October 2021. Available at:
https://www.itnnews.co.in/indian-transplant-newsletter/issue63/The-story-of-first-African-American-to-receive-a-Face-Transplant-1124.htm

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  • Keywords: Robert Chelsea, Face transplant, medical system, mistrust