CHICAGO (CBS) — On September 12th, surgeons at Northwestern Memorial Hospital performed their 1500th liver transplant.

This achievement comes shortly after the 20 year anniversary of Northwestern’s first liver transplant.

“I think it’s an incredible institutional achievement,” said Michael Abecassis, MD, chief of the division of organ transplantation and founding director of the Comprehensive Transplant Center at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

The 1,500th liver transplant recipient, Freddie Martinez, was able to take advantage of the Glenview, Ill. satellite clinic himself before receiving his transplant at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

“I battled liver disease for years but I was one of the lucky ones. I was in shock when I heard they had an organ for me. I realized someone had given up their life to get my life back.”

Abecassis says over the last two decades, the need for liver transplants has grown dramatically.

“Nationally, dozens of patients die every day waiting for a liver transplant so anything we can do to raise awareness about the organ shortage or the decision to donate.”

Terry Costello was the first person to receive a liver transplant at Northwestern Memorial. He received his transplant more than 20 years ago on August 25, 1993.

Since then, Dr. Abecassis says they’ve come a long way in techniques, patient care and recovery but outreach can always be improved.

“More importantly is to raise awareness for the shortage of organs.”

Northwestern Memorial is also home to the first Comprehensive Liver Cancer Clinic in the Midwest. Liver cancer is the fifth most common cancer worldwide and accounts for more than 600,000 deaths each year according to the American Cancer Society.

Nationwide, there are 18,000 patients on the organ donation list waiting for livers.