Thank you for joining me to celebrate National Minority Donor Awareness Week (August 1-7). Throughout this week, many dedicated individuals and organizations across the country will come together to endorse the critical need for organ donation, particularly among the minority communities.
As we celebrate the generosity of those families and patients who have made possible the “gift of life” through organ and tissue donation, we should pause for a moment to understand how much more work lies ahead of us. The need for organ donors, especially among ethnic minorities, has never been greater.
High blood pressure and diabetes are the two most common causes of kidney failure in the United States. African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders are more likely to suffer from these conditions and also to develop kidney failure. Today, more than 100,000 people are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant in the United States— of which more than 63 percent are ethnic minorities.
Every 10 minutes, a patient is added to the waiting list.
Every day, 18 patients die on the waiting list due to a shortage of organ donors.
As a transplant surgeon, it is my mission to help my patients with end-stage organ disease return to a productive, healthy life— something that can only be achieved through the gift of transplantation. I serve another role in transplantation as well. I am part of a team of hundreds of transplant professionals, transplant recipients and donor families from across the country who voluntarily serve on committees for the nonprofit organization UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing). UNOS is contracted by the federal government to oversee organ allocation and transplantation activity in the United States. I currently serve as the Chair of the Minority Affairs Committee, which is dedicated to ensuring fair and equal access to organ transplantation for ethnic minority patients. We review policies as they are developed to ensure that ethnic minority patients are not disadvantaged in their access to transplantation or organs. We work very hard to make sure that the system is as fair as possible to all groups of people given the severe shortage or organs for transplantation.
There are a number of myths that prevent individuals from registering as organ donors. One myth is that medical professionals won’t try to save you in an emergency if you’ve signed up on your driver’s license or state donor registry. Nothing could be further from the truth. As doctors, we strive to heal our patients. When someone comes into the emergency room, every effort is made to save that patient’s life. It is only after we have exhausted all possible medical treatment options and death has been verified that a separate team of dedicated donation professionals proceeds in carrying out the wishes of individuals who wanted to be organ and tissue donors. It is at this difficult time that loved ones can make the greatest gift of all.
A single organ donor can save as many as 50 lives.
You can help— register to be an organ or tissue donor. Share this message with your family and friends on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Share your wish to be an organ donor with your family.
About 79 lives are saved every day in this country through organ transplantation. That number could be so much higher if there were only more donors. As we celebrate National Minority Awareness Week this year, please consider the more than 64,000 minority transplant candidates who are in need. Please give them hope by visiting http://donatelife.net/register-now/ to sign up be an organ, eye and tissue donor.
Dr. Meelie DebRoy is a transplant surgeon who currently serves as the Chair of the OPTN/UNOS Minority Affairs Committee. She practices in New Jersey and works closely with local organizations there to increase awareness about organ donation and transplantation.