HBCUs partners with black organ donors

The nation’s four historically black medical schools have formed a partnership to diversify the organ donor pool and attract more black workers to the organ transplant field.

The Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Howard University College of Medicine, Meharry College of Medicine, Morehouse Medical School have teamed up with the Organ Donation Advocacy Group and the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, as they announced Thursday.

As part of the partnership, medical schools will develop programs around their curricula and create training opportunities for black medical students and nurses at transplant centers.

The organizations also plan to use historical black networks of colleges and universities to conduct blood donation campaigns, as well as engage local religious leaders and schools to increase donor registrations and educate communities about organ donation.

“It’s very important to have a group of people who can overcome some of the distrust that people of color may have in the health care system,” said Renée Landers, director of health law at Suffolk University.

This year, a task force from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a report recommending a major overhaul of the transplant system to address disparities in health.

Organ transplant referrals vary considerably based on race, gender, immigration status, disability, and socioeconomic status. For example, researchers found that blacks were three times more likely to suffer from kidney failure, but significantly less likely to receive transplants.

The authors of the National Academy found significant differences in how the donor organ is managed and distributed. They also found waste: Roughly 20% of kidneys donated in 2019 were never transplanted, the report says.

The HBCU partnership will expand ongoing work to promote organ donation in minority communities, said Jerry McCauley, vice president of the United Network for Organ Sharing, a non-profit organization that operates an organ procurement and transplant network.

“We need to do better across the country to make sure we have culturally competent people who can reach out to people in the right way so that they get the information they need and are treated in a way that improves the chances that they will become organ donors,” McCauley said. “I hope that bringing this group together will improve the rate of organ donation in the long term.”

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