2023 AOPO President’s Address

At the 2023 AOPO Annual Meeting, Colleen McCarthy, VP of Organ and Tissue at Versiti and incoming AOPO President, delivered a President’s Address, highlighting the accomplishments of the Association and expressing her aspirations for the upcoming year.

View the video transcript below with hyperlinks to the presentation slides.

I feel so grateful for this opportunity to serve as President. As I look back on my 20 years in donation, the Association has been critical for me in my learning and development. I know that many of you are here for your very first AOPO Meeting and I hope you are able to optimize this experience to meet new people, build your network, learn, be inspired, take back ideas to implement back home, and continue to work hard to increase the number of lives saved through organ donation.

Before we look forward, we need to take a second to pause and recognize the work that this organization and all the OPOs here have done. This data tells an incredible story. Year over year increases in the number of donors and organs transplanted. The amount of work and effort it takes to coordinate all the complexities of donation cases. It’s difficult work. It’s amazing work. And you step back and think about all the hours you’ve spent shepherding families through the darkest moments of their lives. All the time and energy you put into navigating through hospitals that are crunched on resources, navigating all the transplant center demands, working in our communities to continue to build trust in donation, and navigating our regulatory changes. Despite all those headwinds, this is what we’ve achieved. Year after year, more people are touched through donation and transplantation. This work takes passion and grit. These numbers tell a wonderful story of the incredible talent and dedication all of you have given to our donor families.

I also want to recognize all the committee members. We have nine committees that consist of 111 people. So that gives us incredible representation and diversity of thought, and these committees have given us structure and governance to move our initiatives forward. The unity and collaboration have been impressive, and we have strength when we work together and share knowledge, and we support each other through our mission. Some of the accomplishments that our committees have accomplished, I’ll name just a few of them.

Our DEI Committee completed our assessment report, and that complements and builds off the DEI work that all of you are doing within your organizations.

Our Data Committee. We have a data warehouse and we’re collecting our UNION data. That gives us tremendous opportunities for future benchmarking and making improvements to the system.

Our Advocacy Committee, is a very busy committee, responding to public comments and shaping how we want to influence our legislators. The work that that committee has done is so impressive. We’ve also been able to navigate through the UDDA changes as we monitor and watch that as well. We’ve also had engagement with legislators regarding the CMS IPPS/OPPS.

So really what this tells me is this structure, this governance is highly effective and it’s making changes and it’s bringing an aligned voice as we move our initiatives forward.

I also want to thank the Strategic Planning Committee that put together a prior three-year plan. The committee met again just this week to plan out what our future looks like, and what we need to accomplish within the next three years. And as we finalize this for the board review, just know that it builds off this strong foundation that we’ve identified more collaboration with our stakeholders. We’re going to continue to advance the values that the Association provides to all of us, and we’ll continue to strengthen our advocacy and our public affairs program as well. And in the end, all this is to continue to drive performance improvement within our organizations.

I want to call out three areas of special interest to me that I think really will be differentiators for our Association.

Data sharing. We have our warehouse. We have over 30 OPOs submitting data that will help us determine what type of decisions need to be driven through this data analysis and benchmarking. I think that this will help us navigate through future potential changes in OPO metrics as well.

I’m also very committed to the DEI work of our Association. And we know that health disparities and lack of trust in healthcare show up in organ donation and transplantation. And we know the impact that that has on our donor families.

The NASEM report highlighted several disparities that are quite disheartening here. And I’ll name a few. Black patients have 37% lower odds of being preemptively referred for transplant evaluation compared to White patients. White candidates are more often preemptively listed for kidney transplant versus Black and Hispanic candidates. And pediatric patients on the waiting list who are Black, and female have a higher waiting list mortality.

In order for these disparities to be addressed, we need to continue to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion within our Association and in the broader community, and we need to continue to keep embracing the unique perspectives and experiences of individuals with diverse backgrounds. I want to recognize and thank all the OPOs for your commitment to DEI and for continuing to drive that forward and keeping it a priority for our Association.

And advocacy. Advocacy plays a critical role in ensuring that policies and regulations support the needs of our OPOs and the patients that we serve. And it is so important that we continue to have a united voice and stay actively engaged with our lawmakers so that we can ensure that the voice of our donor families and the needs of the OPOs in order to continue to save our lives is heard loud and clear.

We know that we have changes on the horizon in 2024. Our performance year is nearly here, and we’re working despite not having guidance on what the future will hold. And I think this really highlights the resiliency of the Association and of the Organ Procurement Organizations. Despite all these headlines, despite the constant challenges that we’ve navigated, we continue to see growth and improvements in our system.

And I have to also add to what Barry [Massa] did to recognize the AOPO staff. This is a professional association, this is a strong team, and the support that you give to our OPOs is incredible. And we’d like to thank you again for supporting us through this. Just a tremendous amount of work and great work that this team does.

And finally, I’m excited to see where we go. We will hit our 50K Goal. I’m happy and honored to serve in this capacity this year. And again, thank you all for the work that you do and the support. Thank you.