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Gift of Life Donor Program: Nation’s Leader for 15 Years

[…] Life Donor Program continues to lead the U.S. in life-saving organ donations for a milestone 15 consecutive years thanks to its dedicated staff, hospital partners and generous community. In 2022, […]

Philadelphia, PA – Gift of Life Donor Program continues to lead the U.S. in life-saving organ donations for a milestone 15 consecutive years thanks to its dedicated staff, hospital partners and generous community. In 2022, Gift of Life coordinated the most organ donors and the most organs for transplant among all 57 organ procurement organizations (OPO) in the country.

Gift of Life led the nation in:

  • Most organ donors – coordinated life-saving gifts from 690 organ donors in 2022, and the most in the U.S. every year since 2008.
  • Most organs transplanted – those donations resulted in 1,744 transplants, the most in the U.S. in 2022.
  • Most kidneys transplanted in U.S. history – coordinated 1,017 kidneys for transplant aligning with CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) and HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration) initiatives to improve kidney utilization and access. Kidneys are the organ needed by the majority of patients on the national waitlist.
  • Largest contributor to U.S. one millionth transplant milestone: Gift of Life’s community contributed the most organs for transplant of any region in the nation to this historic milestone.
photo of rick hasz, Jr., gift of life donor program
Rick Hasz, President and CEO of Gift of Life Donor Program, Transplant Foundation and Gift of Life Howie’s House

Headquartered in Philadelphia, Gift of Life Donor Program is the federally designated OPO that serves the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware. Gift of Life’s annual donation rate, 61 organ donors-per-million-population, is among the highest in the world.

“Our community – filled with families of incredible generosity – is served by the world’s best team in organ donation working in close partnership with hospitals throughout our region. Together, we have achieved the longest record of coordinating the most donor heroes in the U.S. each year for a remarkable 15 straight years,” said Richard Hasz, President and CEO of Gift of Life Donor Program, Transplant Foundation and Gift of Life Howie’s House.  

Hasz added, “Our commitment to every person on the transplant waitlist – about 5,000 in our region alone – is unwavering. Our strong, passionate Gift of Life staff works around the clock every day to save lives. We have changed the lives of more than two million people through organ and tissue transplantation in our nearly 50-year history. We will continue to innovate and strive to achieve a day when no one who needs a transplant dies waiting.”

Victoria Burns, RN, CPTC, CT, has brought her extensive nursing and communication skills to Gift of Life as a transplant coordinator for more than 14 years. The sophisticated work of coordinating donations is richly rewarding, she said.

“The work we do each day means the difference between life and death for a waitlist patient and can bring comfort to a family facing a devastating loss. Donor families share with us how meaningful it is that their loved one’s final act was to save and heal lives. It’s incredibly powerful,” she said. Learn more about this life-saving work.

Rafiah Cheeks was born with a failing liver that affected every part of his tiny body. A life-saving transplant allowed him to grow up, enjoy a full life and compete as an athlete at the Donate Life Transplant Games of America. Rafiah has won numerous medals, most recently at the 2022 Games, but he is even more proud of his mother’s legacy as a donor hero. Read his inspiring story.

In 2022, Gift of Life recovered life-transforming tissue from 2,437 donors, including 1,348 musculoskeletal donors and 1,974 cornea donors. These precious gifts can benefit more than 135,000 people, with bone donations for orthopedic and sports injuries, skin for burn patients and reconstructive surgery, heart valves to repair life-threatening defects and corneas to provide the gift of sight.

Christine Radolovic, MS, BSN, RN, Gift of Life Chief Clinical Officer

Gift of Life’s expert donation professionals collaborate with 126 acute care hospitals and 13 transplant centers. “Offering families the opportunity to give life after the death of their loved one takes a special partnership. Our Gift of Life and hospital critical care teams bring so much sensitivity and skill to their shared mission of caring for donors and supporting donor families. The complex process from donation to transplant is truly a team effort and a tribute to our clinical caregivers who know how precious each organ is to save someone’s life,” said Christine Radolovic, MS, BSN, RN, Gift of Life Chief Clinical Officer.

A transplant saved Sean Devine, MD, who, as an ICU physician on the front lines of the pandemic, contracted COVID-19 and suffered irreparable damage to his lungs.

“The impact of organ donation on people’s lives is profound. Our region is fortunate to have selfless families who say ‘yes’ to donation and champions of donation in each hospital who are proud to work closely with Gift of Life’s exceptional team,” said Dr. Devine, a pulmonologist with Geisinger Medical Center.

Gift of Life supports donor families through their grief with counseling and special programs, including annual Life and Legacy Celebrations that honor donor heroes and their families. View this year’s virtual ceremony.

Jan L. Weinstock, Esq., Gift of Life Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel

“We are humbled to serve a community of such extraordinary kindness – leading the nation in life-saving organ donations every year since 2008. We urge everyone to help close the gap between organs available for transplant and the more than 100,000 children and adults in the country who are desperately waiting. Each one of us can be a hero by signing up as donor,” said Jan L. Weinstock, Esq., Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel. Seventeen patients die waiting each day in the U.S. It takes less than a minute to sign up to help save lives. To learn more or to register, go to donors1.org.

One of the donor heroes of 2022 was Mackenzie Rose, a feisty seven-year-old who saved the life of a family friend and one other person through organ donation. Watch her story.

Leader in Innovation and Education

Gift of Life’s staff is recognized internationally for expertise, innovation, and leadership in the field of donation and transplantation. Highlights from 2022 include:

  • Serving as an OPO leader in the first-of-its-kind initiative – the national “Kidney Collaborative” (End Stage Renal Disease Treatment Choices Learning Collaborative) of CMS and HRSA — working to increase the number of kidneys available for transplant by sharing highly effective practices among acute care hospitals, OPOs and transplant centers.
  • Expanding Gift of Life’s partnership with hospitals and technology companies to implement innovations that create a faster, more streamlined organ donation process. Here are two examples:
    • Expediting the transfer of essential medical information through use of customized software, which securely imports donor clinical data electronically, ensuring accuracy and allowing for increased focus by coordinators on donor management and organ allocation. Click here for details.
    • Adding the latest GPS tracking that supports time-sensitive transport and successful delivery of precious organs for transplant.
  • Sharing best practices and research with staff publishing scholarly articles and presenting to the field’s premiere professional organizations including:
    • American Society of Transplant Surgeons
    • American Society of Transplant Physicians
    • Society for Critical Care Medicine
    • The Transplantation Society
    • AOPO (Association of Organ Procurement Organizations)
    • NATCO (The Organization for Donation and Transplant Professionals)

Gift of Life Institute is an international training center for organ and tissue donation professionals grounded on the experience of Gift of Life Donor Program. The Institute’s comprehensive, interdisciplinary resources designed to increase donation outcomes include skills-based learning, continuing education, collaborative research, and consulting services. Since its inception in 2004, the Institute has facilitated more than 579 workshops with 57 OPOs and multiple tissue banks, training over 13,400 professionals from across the U.S. and 33 countries around the world. In 2022, the Institute conducted training for more than 1,225 participants.

Transplant Pregnancy Registry International (TPRI) is the only research study in the world tracking the effects of pregnancy on transplant recipients and the effects of immunosuppressive medications on fertility and pregnancy outcomes. Many transplant recipients were warned not to attempt pregnancy in years past. TPRI has helped give organ recipients science-based information to achieve post-transplant parenthood through more than 32 years of expert research.

Since 1991, the TPRI team and its collaborators have tracked 3,062 parents and 5,326 pregnancies; celebrated more than 250 grandchildren; presented information at 545 academic forums; and written over 300 publications including 83 peer-reviewed publications. Their work informs treatment guidelines, education to providers, and guidance to recipients worldwide.

November 2022 brought the reunion of two TPRI participants who became friends when they each received a life-saving liver transplant as toddlers and now have healthy children of their own. Watch the heartwarming story of Anna and Kate.

Transplant Foundation, the supporting affiliate of Gift of Life Donor Program, leads research and education to advance donation and transplantation around the world. It also provides grants to fund innovation, quality and safety through scientific research, social and behavioral interventions or alternate approaches to existing processes and protocols. Transplant Foundation has funded more than 22 research initiatives in recent years.

In 2022, Transplant Foundation funded an innovative program to inspire young students of diverse backgrounds to explore careers in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM). The inaugural ID-STEM (Increasing Diversity in STEM) program at Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Chester, Pa. was founded by transplant surgeon Thomas Butler, MD. The program is the first of its kind in our region and just the second such opportunity offered to minority students nationally. Discover more in this video.

Transplant Foundation also supports Camp Jeremy, a summer day camp filled with fun and friendship for young transplant recipients and their siblings. Camp Jeremy has expanded to include a one-day, virtual winter version featuring games, art projects and science experiments.

Transplant Foundation helps support transplant recipients, living donors and donor family participation as part of Team Philadelphia at the Donate Life Transplant Games of America. Team Philly athletes won 58 medals including 36 gold, 16 silver and 6 bronze at the 2022 Transplant Games in San Diego. See some of the action in this highlights video.

Gift of Life’s annual Donor Dash supports Transplant Foundation by raising funds and increasing public awareness of the critical need for organ and tissue donors. Dash celebrated its 25th anniversary in April 2022 (National Donate Life Month) and more than a quarter of a million people have participated in Dash since its start. Experience the excitement of Dash in this highlights video.

New Name, Same Mission: A Home for Transplant Patients and Families

A special haven of comfort, hope and healing for thousands of transplant patients and their families for more than a decade was renamed after its visionary founder in 2022. Gift of Life Family House became Gift of Life Howie’s House in honor of Howard M. Nathan, who is now Executive Director of Transplant Foundation after serving as President and CEO of Gift of Life Donor Program for 38 years.

The House serves as a 32-room warm and welcoming home away from home providing temporary, affordable lodging and professional supportive services for families traveling to Philadelphia for a life-saving transplant for their loved one. The House is the first healthcare hospitality house in the U.S. founded by an organ procurement organization and serving multiple transplant centers.

The House has provided 85,430 nights of food, lodging and supportive services since it opened, and, true to its mission, implemented numerous safety protocols so it could remain open throughout the pandemic. With community support, The House has welcomed 153,351 guests and served more than 306,702 meals.

The House’s webinar series and virtual support groups for transplant patients and caregivers provide free, essential information on a wide range of topics, from understanding the waitlist process to recovery, medication, and mental health. In 2022, 2,200 participants from most U.S. states and multiple countries attended these programs.

Commitment to Our Community

Gift of Life’s commitment to support transplant patients and their caregivers/families throughout their journey extends beyond The House and includes grants to help those receiving care at transplant centers across its entire service area. Through various initiatives supporting transplant patients and their families, Gift of Life has provided more than $12 million in subsidized care during the past 11 years.

Gift of Life’s work would not be possible without hundreds of volunteers who provide food and services to guests, help educate the public, and support our life-saving mission. Learn more about becoming a Gift of Life ambassador and read this inspiring story of donor dad Tom Gano, who has educated more than 300,000 students about the importance of organ and tissue donation.

About Gift of Life Donor Program

Gift of Life Donor Program is the non-profit, federally designated organ procurement organization, working with 126 acute care hospitals and 13 transplant centers to serve 11.3 million people in the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware. Thanks to its compassionate community, for the past 15 years, Gift of Life has coordinated the most organ donors in the United States. Its annual donation rate, most recently 61 organ donors-per-million-population, ranks among the highest in the world. Since 1974, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 58,000 organs for transplant, and more than two million tissue transplants have resulted from the generosity of donors and their families. One organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people, and a tissue donor can improve the lives of about 100 others. For more information or to register, visit donors1.org.