Meharry Medical College works to improve equity in organ donation through pilot program

meharry medical college
Posted at 7:14 AM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 08:14:46-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Reports show there are inequities when it comes to people of color getting organ donations and transplants. This applies to people getting on the waitlist and finding a match.

Meharry Medical College and Tennessee Donor Services will partner to confront inequities in organ donation and transplant and increase the number of organ donors and recipients who are people of color.

The partnership is the first of its kind in the nation they say, between an HBCU (historically Black colleges and universities) medical school, an organ procurement organization and the 57 nonprofit organizations in the U.S. that are federally designated to recover organs for transplant.

Under the partnership they will create a pilot program to expose the next generation of Black health care workers to the fields of organ donation and transplantation, where people of color are severely underrepresented.

Their results show, Black Americans make up a disproportionate number of people living with kidney disease, only 5.5% of transplant surgeons and 7% of nephrologists, the doctors responsible for the treatment of kidneys, are Black.

Black Americans also comprise 12.9% of organ donors, while making up 28.5% of the candidates currently on the waitlist.

The HBCU says increasing organ donation registration among Black Americans is a key part of this solution because the likelihood of an organ match is higher among individuals with similar racial and ethnic backgrounds, although not limited to it.

Dr. James Hildreth, president of Meharry Medical College, says the university joined Tennessee Donor Services to break down the barriers to save more Black lives.

“The underrepresentation of Black professionals in the organ donation and transplantation field has contributed to a lack of trust and understanding among patients in our community who could benefit from transplant,” Dr. Hildreth said.

The pilot program is planned for a fall launch. It intended to serve as a model for other U.S. medical schools, the pilot will include classroom instruction and shadowing opportunities for Meharry students and residents.

Meharry and Tennessee Donor Services also hope to educate current donation and transplantation professionals about cultural sensitivities they should keep in mind when communicating with Black and minority patients.

They also plan to do community outreach to encourage greater understanding of and interest in organ donation.