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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Dr. Harold Kleinert passed away on Saturday, September 28, 2013.
His reputation stretched across the globe, and his medical accomplishments inspired doctors young and old. The Kleinert family announced in a statement Sunday that the world renowned Louisville hand surgeon had passed away.
A Montana native, Dr. Harold Kleinert came to the University Louisville in 1953.
In 1960, his fascination with hand surgery led him to open his own practice dedicated to repairing damaged hands, fingers and arms. By 1963, he welcomed Dr. Joseph Kutz into the practice, creating the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center.
According to Jewish Hospital, the team performed the world's first successful hand transplant in 1999.
Since then, Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center has performed numerous hand transplants.
Kleinert, has said that he doesn't know exactly how many surgeries he's performed over the years, but Shelley Martin of Indiana says she is forever grateful to the man who saved her index finger over four decades ago. She was very close to losing her right index finger when she stuck her hand in a bike wheel as it was spinning.
"They had the pedals going around and making the back wheels spin and I stuck my finger in the spokes of the bike, it pretty much severed my finger on the right hand," She was only three at the time, but she says every time she drives by Jewish Hospital, she says 'thank you'. "I love art, I majored in art in school and I wouldn't have been able to do that had it not been for them fixing my finger."
The community is also remembering Dr. Kleinert for his influence. In a statement Sunday, University of Louisville President, Dr. James Ramsey said, "Dr. Kleinert was a pioneer in his field who shared his knowledge with hundreds of surgeons and University of Louisville medical students. His legacy lives on through their work improving the lives of others. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."
As a teacher, an inspiration, and a medical leader, his influence on Louisville's medical community, and the field of hand surgery world wide will not soon be forgotten.
Kleinert's family said they have yet to make funeral arrangements.