AOPO Annual Meeting Results in New Ideas and Recommendations on How to Save More Lives

The rooms were packed, the speakers were insightful, and collaboration abounded. I’m referring to The Association of Organ Procurement Organizations’ (AOPO) 39th Annual Meeting that recently took place in Phoenix, Arizona. It was great to be together in person again with our organ procurement organization (OPO) colleagues where we could gather as a community to share information and learn about new technologies and successful practices that save more lives and achieve 50,000 annual organ transplants in 2026.

Key Findings for OPOs in National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Report

Leigh Anne Dageforde, MD, MPH, Transplant Surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital and a member of the NASEM committee that drafted the recent report on equity in the organ donation and transplantation system, presented key findings and recommendations on how OPOs can prepare to implement the report findings. The session included discussion on ways to achieve equity, improve organ utilization, create system-wide performance metrics, and engage patients in the organ donor process. Many of the objectives align with a recent letter AOPO sent to Secretary Xavier Becerra of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to highlight areas within the NASEM report that we believe should be of immediate focus as HHS develops its action strategy.

OPO, Donor Hospital, and Transplant Center Collaborations Optimize Kidneys for Transplant

AOPO Medical Advisor Marty Sellers, MD, MPH, Organ Recovery Surgeon at Tennessee Donor Services, and UNOS President Matthew Cooper, MD, Director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation at Medstar Georgetown Transplant Institute, shared the current state of kidney donation and transplantation in the U.S. They emphasized how the underutilization of kidneys unnecessarily prolongs dialysis for candidates, results in waitlist mortality, and negatively impacts transplantation rates. The speakers discussed steps being taken through the AOPO 50K goal, NASEM report, and the CMS-led End Stage Renal Disease Treatment Choices Learning Collaborative (ETCLC) initiative to focus on greater utilization of kidneys.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Initiatives Lead to More Unbiased Donation System

Speakers Clive Callender, MD, renowned transplant surgeon and medical Professor at Howard University, Joe Ferreira, CEO and President of Nevada Donor Network, and Ieesha Johnson, Director, Community Outreach at the Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland (LLF), shared the history of advancing DEI in the organ donation and transplantation community and future initiatives to make the system more equitable. Dr. Callender shared details on AOPO’s newly initiated collaboration with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to provide pathways for Black medical students to pursue a career in organ donation and transplantation, as well as outreach efforts to continue educating communities of color about the gift of life. Ms. Johnson spoke about the Decision Project that the LLF designed and implemented in their communities to empower people to make an educated decision about organ, eye, and tissue donation and then share that decision with their families. Additionally, Mr. Ferreira presented the work of AOPO’s DEI Committee and its strategy to help OPOs on their DEI journey.

Strategies to Increases Donation After Circulatory Determination of Death (DCDD)

OPO speakers presented strategies to increase DCDD to save more lives, which included optimizing clinical practices, staffing structures, acute care hospital and transplant program relationships, and increased approaches for authorization.

Important Components of Donor Care Unit (DCU) Models

OPOs shared different DCU models implemented to better serve donors and families, increase cost effectiveness, and foster advancement in organ rehabilitation and donor intervention research.

Improvement in Action: The Launch of the IMPACT Program

The OPO IMPACT Committee provided an overview of the new AOPO program that will assess OPOs in the core areas of operations, donation drivers, donation system, and transplant rate, providing recommendations for performance improvement. This helps OPOs to know where they need to improve and matches them with other OPOs that can help them to advance in those areas. The goal is to help OPOs to move into higher tiers and stay certified. The program is currently undergoing beta testing with plans to recruit subject-matter experts to administer the evaluation and successful practice-sharing process to help OPOs reach their goals.

The Annual Meeting also included an exhibit experience for attendees to connect with over 55 exhibitors and industry partners that have developed products and services to improve the efficiency and success of the organ donation and transplantation process.

Meeting Close by Barry Massa

New AOPO President Barry Massa, Executive Director of LifeCenter Organ Donor Network, closed the meeting with an organizational commitment to:

  1. Transparency – foster an environment of honest, open, and respectful dialogue with straightforward and inclusive communication.
  2. Collaboration – the power of working together as dedicated partners teaching, learning, and sharing best practices to achieve our collective goals.
  3. DEI – appreciate and celebrate our differences and endeavor to provide opportunities for all members to contribute to our success.
  4. Passion – relentlessly pursue our mission advocating for those we serve.

This is an exciting time to be part of the OPO community. There are lots of changes ahead that will lead to more lives saved and I look forward to sharing our progress every step of the way.

Steve Miller, MBA, CAE

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