Update 5/6/2022: HBCU medical schools to tackle organ transplant disparities
A Historical Snapshot
Experts say minority and rural communities are underserved. As early as the 1970s, advocates in the organ transplant community were seeking ways to better engage minority communities.
In 1978, Howard University, one of the country’s most well-known historically black colleges/universities,(HBCU), embarked on a journey to discover the feelings and thoughts about organ donation in the African-American community. Howard University, located in Washington, DC, was once the home of the Freedmen’s Hospital and the first teaching hospital in our nation on the campus of a historically Black university.
In a conversation with the South-Eastern Organ Procurement Foundation initiated by the foundation, Dr. Clive Callender received information that would change the course of organ donation in Black communities. Callender was a professor and transplant surgeon at Howard.
“Their data demonstrated that 70 percent of the patients on dialysis were Black, and yet less than 10 percent of those who donated for transplantation were Black.” Callender continued, “They recognized the discordant nature of the data and wondered what could be done about it.”
Setting out with a $500 federal grant, Callender and his team worked to change the statistics. Callender crafted a program to increase minority organ donation in Washington, D.C. using what they’d learned in focus groups. The percentage of potential donors among black D.C. residents increased from 10 percent in 1978 to 51 percent by 1993.
In 1991, Callender founded the Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program (MOTTEP) and expanded its mission to include all ethnic and racial minorities. The results of Howard’s successful program to increase organ donation in minority communities was published in the England Journal of Medicine during the same year.
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Dr. Clive Callender on Minority Organ Donation Posted Feb 19, 2016 by National MOTTEP
The Journey Continues: Increased Organ Donation & Equitable Organ Transplants
While disparities exist, according to stats at the Center for Health Journalism, nationally the organ donation rate of African-Americans improved significantly from 1978 and surpassed that of non-minorities in 2010. Even as a percent of population, the numbers continued to show promising improvement. In 2017, there were 38.1 organ donors per million African Americans, compared with 34.29 per million Caucasians.
According to the National MOTTEP’s website, they are celebrating 30 years of saving lives. They pay homage to Dr. Clive O. Callender’s work and state their mission is to reduce the rate and number of ethnic minority Americans needing organ and tissue transplants.
More Voices Join the Call to End Disparities
During National Kidney Month, experts at Cleveland Clinic weighted in and joined the call to end disparities in organ transplants among minority and rural populations. The experts at Cleveland Clinic released their comments after a new report by National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). Julie Washington wrote for cleveland.com, “Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. James Young and Jesse Schold were among the experts involved in drafting the recently announced recommendations.”
More than 106,000 patients in the United States are on the national transplant waitlist. On average, 17 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant. Every nine (9) minutes a person is added to the transplant waiting list primarily waiting for a kidney, liver, heart, lung — from deceased donors. Although many kidney and liver transplants are made possible by living donors. Most patients need a kidney transplant including African Americans who suffer disproportionately from illnesses that lead to chronic kidney disease or kidney failure. The National Kidney Foundation answers many questions about Preparing for a Transplant.
In her article, Washington shared key recommendations found in NASEM’s report, “In order to create a more equitable system, the American transplant network needs to reduce the number of donated organs that aren’t used, make it easier for African-American patients to get on transplant lists, and increase the number of organs transplanted annually by 2026.” A free, digital copy of the report is available at their site. A paperback is available for purchase.
Young, Executive Director of Academic Affairs, states the number of solid organ transplants nationally could increase transplants from 41,000 to 50,000 in two years just by improving the organ transplant system. Schold is the Director of the Clinic’s Center for Populations Health Research and he is clear, “Transplants extend lives.”
About Cleveland Clinic
The Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals are the only Northeast Ohio hospital systems that perform solid organ transplants. Non-solid organ transplants involve bone marrow, tissues and fluids, while composite organ transplants involve the limbs and face.
Anyone can register to become an organ donor at RegisterMe.org. Living donors and organ recipients can contact National Foundation for Transplants when they need help raising funds for out-of-pocket transplant-related expenses. We exist to help transplant patients through their most difficult times get to their most wonderful times. You can support their transplant journey with a financial gift.