Morehouse School Of Medicine Partners With LifeLink Of Georgia To Combat Organ Donation Disparities

To address the issue of disparities in organ donation, LifeLink of Georgia has partnered with Morehouse School of Medicine to launch an innovative program aimed at tackling the underrepresentation of Black Americans in the organ donation and transplant fields. 

This groundbreaking initiative is a response to the alarming statistics that show Black Americans constitute 28% of the national transplant waitlist and a staggering 62% in Georgia.

Black Americans face significantly higher risks of developing kidney failure, being three times more likely to suffer from the condition than their white counterparts. Despite this, they are markedly less likely to receive kidney transplants. 

Contributing to this disparity is the low representation of Black professionals in the field, with Black nephrologists making up less than 7% of the industry and Black transplant surgeons at just 5.5%.

“The organ donation and transplant field lacks diverse representatives and perspectives, which are necessary to best serve communities with the highest need,” Katie Payne, Executive Director, LifeLink of Georgia said.

Morehouse School of Medicine is one of the nation’s four HBCU medical schools, and LifeLink of Georgia, is the nonprofit responsible for facilitating organ donations across the state. Together, they have initiated a surgical “boot camp” for third-year medical students at Morehouse, aiming to increase the involvement of future Black doctors in organ donation and transplantation.

The first session of the LifeLink-Morehouse program took place in the spring, with plans to continue in an upcoming semester. Students participate in 24-hour hands-on rotations alongside local organ recovery and transplant surgeons at Piedmont Atlanta and the LifeLink of Georgia Organ Recovery Center. This immersive experience includes mock calls, organ procurement, and transplant surgeries, providing invaluable practical training.

Lauren Johnson, a recent graduate of Morehouse School of Medicine who matched into general surgery at LSU in New Orleans, shared her experience with ADW: “We spent an entire day with the Lifelink team where they talked about how organ transplantation works and the logistics behind it all. We got to hear stories from people who received transplants with Lifelink, which was really beautiful.”

One of the program’s ultimate goals is to demystify organ donation within the Black community and encourage more Black medical students to enter this field. 

“I think one of the most important things, about this whole experience, is kind of breaking the stigma around organ transplantation in our community and in many communities. There’s a lot of misinformation about how organ transplantation works,” Johnson said. 

She added: “There are really strict criteria for people to be an organ donor. That was one really important thing that I learned through the class. Not anybody can be an organ donor. I’m an organ donor, personally, it’s on my license, but there’s strict criteria that those patients have to meet in order to qualify.”  

According to organdonor.gov, a resource run by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration, “not everyone who registers as a donor is able to donate. In fact, only 3 in 1,000 people die in a way that allows for deceased organ donation.” 

As the LifeLink-Morehouse program continues to grow, its impact on the organ donation field is expected to be profound. By increasing the number of Black professionals involved in organ donation and transplantation, the program seeks to reduce waitlist disparities and improve healthcare outcomes for Black Americans.

 “African American patients require life saving kidney transplants at a higher rate than other populations, and representation amongst healthcare providers will increase the number of African American donors and transplants for African American patients. Closing these gaps starts with us. Our partnership with Morehouse School of Medicine will ultimately save more lives.” 

By empowering future Black doctors and fostering community education, the LifeLink of Georgia program with Morehouse School of Medicine is a vital step towards equity in healthcare.

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