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HBCU Medical Schools and Organ Procurement Organizations Launch Pilot Programs to Increase Organ Donation and Transplant Among Black Americans

Program supported by over $200k in seed funding from participating organizations; pilots will serve as roadmap for diversifying pipeline in donation and transplantation field and expanding education and outreach to minority communities.

McLean, VA (April 5, 2023) – A consortium of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) medical schools and organ procurement organizations today announced the launch of four pilot programs to improve donation and transplantation among Black Americans by diversifying the workforce and broadening outreach to minority communities.

The partnership between the organizations was first announced in May 2022 and dovetails with recommendations in a 2022 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on improving equity in organ donation and transplantation. The four pilots are supported by more than $200,000 in seed grants from the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO), Organ Donation Advocacy Group and Meharry Medical College, as well as individual organ procurement organizations (OPOs) DCI Donor Services, Infinite Legacy, LifeLink of Georgia, LifeShare Oklahoma, Mid-South Transplant Foundation and OneLegacy Foundation.

“Diversifying the organ donation and transplant field will save more Black lives as it is proven that patients feel more comfortable when working with providers who share their background,” said Dr. James Hildreth, President and CEO of Meharry Medical College. “This program is the first of its kind and will provide a roadmap for how to make the donation and transplant system more equitable. HBCU Medical Schools have spent decades educating Black healthcare professionals and caring for the underserved, and we are proud to lead this initiative with our OPO partners.”

Each pilot has a distinct area of focus determined by the HBCU Medical School and the partner organ procurement organization (OPO) in its city or state. Upon completion this year, the pilots will be offered as blueprints to other HBCUs and OPOs in the nation to model as they expand their equity initiatives. The following are the locations and focus of each pilot:

        • Los Angeles, CA: Charles R. Drew University of Medicine & Science and OneLegacy
          • Increase awareness of the benefits of donation and transplant by offering educational information and preventative care at mobile care and pop-up units throughout the community.
        • Washington, DC: Howard University School of Medicine and Infinite Legacy
          • Spark interest and boost the long-term pipeline of Black nephrologists, transplant surgeons and donation professionals through outreach and education of area elementary and middle school students, as well as high school students and afterschool and GED programs.
        • Nashville, TN: Meharry Medical College and Tennessee Donor Services/DCI Donor Services
          • Immediately increase the number of Black professionals in donation and transplantation by offering a semester-long curriculum to students in medicine, nursing, business administration, public health and other fields.
        • Atlanta, GA: Morehouse School of Medicine and LifeLink of Georgia
          • Interest future physicians in the complex field of organ donation and transplantation by offering hands-on rotations in organ recovery at LifeLink of Georgia’s specialized Donor Care Unit.

“We are thrilled with how this partnership has grown and excited to see these pilots take off,” said Dr. Clive Callender, Clinical Professor of Surgery at Howard University and a pioneer in improving equity in organ donation. “Every day we work to create a more equitable world in which all Americans, regardless of background or income, have access to the quality care they deserve. With our OPO partners, we are determined to increase the number of Black Americans who get on the waiting list and receive transplants, as well as the number of Black Americans registered as organ donors. These pilots are the path toward saving more lives.”

“Statistics show that 60 percent of the 100,000 people waiting to receive organ transplants are people of color, yet people of color make up only 35 percent of donors. It is vital to increase the number of Black Americans who are participating in this lifesaving work,” said Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD, FACOG, President and CEO of Morehouse School of Medicine. “Achieving health equity includes equity in organ donations and transplants, and increased education and outreach to Black and Brown communities will be a key part of this effort. Morehouse School of Medicine is proud to be a part of this initiative and looks forward to seeing its real-world results for patients.”

Currently, fewer than 7 percent of nephrologists and only 5.5 percent of transplant surgeons are Black, creating a significant disparity between the race of doctors and the patients they serve. Many studies demonstrate generational mistrust of predominantly White medical establishments among Black Americans.

“It’s essential to inform and educate communities of color about the needs and benefits around organ transplants and donations, and this can best be achieved by reaching directly into these neighborhoods,” notes Dr. David M. Carlisle, President and CEO of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles. “This collaboration between the HBCUs and the many organizations looking to move the needle on this topic is both important and potentially life-saving.”

The organ donation and transplant field are rallying around this unprecedented initiative that will improve health equity and address health disparities.

“We encourage others in the donation and transplant community to support this important work aimed at creating a more equitable donation and transplantation system,” said Barry Massa, AOPO President and Executive Director of LifeCenter Organ Donor Network. “Our mission is to advance the organ donation and transplantation process by reducing health disparities and collaborating with stakeholders to save more lives. These pilot programs do exactly that.”


About the HBCU Medical Schools Consortium

The HBCU Medical Schools Consortium has worked to advance the healthcare needs of people of color for decades by positively impacting industry practices and public policy and opinion. The consortium, which includes Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., Meharry Medical College in Nashville, and Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, works with government agencies and private industry to accelerate better health, equity and access for the people and communities they serve.

About Organ Donation Advocacy Group (ODAG)

ODAG is a working group of Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) dedicated to improving the nation’s organ donation and transplantation system in order to save and heal more lives. ODAG collaborates with clinical colleagues, government entities and community partners to increase organs available for transplants, reduce disparities in donation and transplantation, drive innovation in the field, and advocate for policies that support system-wide reform. The group, which comprises 11 of the nation’s 56 OPOs, was collectively responsible for 27% of deceased donors and 27% of transplants from deceased donors in the U.S. in 2022 (10,587 of a total 39,862 transplants.) Members of ODAG are DCI Donor Services, Donor Alliance, Gift of Life Donor Program, Gift of Life Michigan, LifeCenter Northwest, LifeShare Oklahoma, LifeSource, New England Donor Services, and OneLegacy Foundation.

About the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO)

The Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) is the not-for-profit trade association leading the nation’s organ donation community to save and improve lives through organ, eye, and tissue donation. Founded in 1984, AOPO advances organ donation and transplantation by driving continual improvement of the donation process, collaborating with stakeholders, and sharing successful practices with their OPO members. The vision of AOPO is to pursue the day when every donation opportunity results in lives saved. For more information, please visit