LA VERGNE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Black Americans make up about 13% of the US population, but they account for 35% of people suffering kidney failure. That means they make up the majority of people who need an organ transplant.
The nation’s four Historical Black College and University medical schools and members of the organ donation and transplantation community announced an initiative to increase the number of Black registered donors and transplant recipients and save thousands more lives.
Meharry Medical College and the Tennessee Donor Services participating.
The initiative was created by the Consortium of HBCU Medical Schools and the Organ Donation Advocacy Group, in conjunction with the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO), to address the need for improved equity in the field of organ donation and transplantation.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Department Office of Minority Health, Black Americans are the largest minority group in need of organ transplants.
In 2020, Black patients who received organ transplants was 27.7% of the number of those on the waiting list, while the number of white patients who received transplants was 47.6% of those waiting. Additionally, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Black Americans are almost four times as likely as Whites to develop kidney failure. While Black Americans make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 35 percent of people with kidney failure.
"I was always an organ donor but I never thought I would have to be the one to receive an organ but now I'm definitely an advocate for it," La Vergne Police Department Chief Chip Davis said.
He is no stranger to challenges.
"Back in 2014, I was having a series of headaches and didn't know what the cause of headaches, but coming from my wife who is a physician, she decided to get me an appointment with one of her doctors."
A medical checkup showed Davis was in kidney failure.
"In 2015 an officer who previously worked here was a donor, a matched for me and he decided to donate a kidney to me so Dec. 29 I had a kidney transplant," said Davis.
Jill Grandas — executive director of DCI Donor Services of an organ procurement organization that serves Tennessee — is teaming up with Meharry Medical College to increase the number of Black Americans registered as organ donors. This will happen by creating opportunities for Black medical and nursing students to shadow transplant centers and organizations.
"We reached out wanting Meharry to help us with that, and Dr. Hildreth was so enthusiastic about doing that and understanding the inequities and transplantation."
Since COVID-19, the numbers have increased more.
Davis is back on dialysis after getting COVID-19, it has affected his donor's kidney.
"It's changed me mentally, physically changed the way I police," said Davis.
At least 3,000 Tennesseans are still waiting for transplants and need more people to register.