A new initiative aimed at increasing the number of black Americans registered as organ donors and combating disparities among transplant recipients was announced Thursday by a coalition that includes four medical schools from the nation’s historically black colleges and universities. Huh.
The collaboration follows a National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report, “Realizing the promise of equity in the organ transplant system,” which found significant disparities in the country’s organ transplant system. It was released earlier this year and commissioned by Congress, which wanted to investigate equity within the donor organ procurement, allocation, and distribution system.
The initiative – which was created by the Consortium of HBCU Medical Schools, the Organ Donation Advocacy Group and the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations – seeks to create new opportunities for black medical and nursing students to shadow organ procurement organizations and transplant centers and collaborate with partner HBCUs. The plan is to create opportunities. who offer programs in nursing, public health, public policy and health care administration. The announcement of the initiative was previously shared with The Associated Press.
Behind the initiative was the HBCU Consortium in Los Angeles by Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Sciences, Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, and Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.
In this initiative health professionals will talk to K-12 students from Black communities about fields and career pathways. It will also focus on community education, including creating accessible content about transplants for dialysis patients, and hosting health fairs and blood drives.
Concerns about equitable access to organ transplants have existed in the United States for decades. But attention has grown in recent years after the global COVID-19 pandemic recovered a disproportionate toll among black Americans and exposed the country’s long-standing racial health inequalities due to structural racism, unequal access to care, and prejudice within the country’s medical system.
Mehri’s President and CEO Dr. James E.K. “At the core of all this is the huge disparity in transplants given and performed on African Americans versus whites in our country, and this is a long-standing problem and issue,” Hildreth said. Medical College in an interview with The Associated Press.
“And some of this message has to come from credible organizations, which is another reason why we believe the Four Black Medical Schools have a very important role that cannot be filled honestly by any other organization in the country.” . . ” Hildreth said.
HBCU medical schools have historically served as an essential pipeline for black doctors and other medical professionals. Hildreth said the initiative would increase those numbers. The HBCU Medical School Collaborative was formed in 2020 to address health equity amid the pandemic. But Hildreth said schools have a legacy of working together, often on disparate areas that medicine and health systems have historically overlooked.
But HBCU collaboration has grown since then and has identified kidney transplantation and donation as areas of concern because Black nephrologists – doctors who diagnose and treat acute and chronic kidney problems – account for less than 7% of the industry and transplants. of only 5.5%. Surgeons are black.
Hildreth said that about 80% of Mehri’s graduates work in underserved communities, and 85% are black. Most of them come from households with lower incomes than a typical white medical student.
“Minorities and people of color are consistently underrepresented throughout medicine, and the fields of organ and tissue donation and transplantation are no exception,” said Dr. Clive Callender, a transplant surgeon and medical professor at Howard University College of Medicine. ” Organ donation as a pioneer for equity. “This collaboration will allow us to save thousands of lives across the country by strengthening relationships between health care workers, black and minority patients, and organ and transplant professionals.”
According to the Office of Minority Health of the Department of Health and Human Services, black Americans make up the largest group among people of color in the United States who need an organ transplant. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, black Americans are nearly four times more likely to develop kidney failure than white Americans.
And while black Americans make up about 13% of the US population, they account for 35% of people with kidney failure, which accounts for the majority of transplants. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine – or NASEM – report set a benchmark for organ transplants to increase to 50,000 annually by 2026; 41,354 transplants were performed in 2021, an increase of 5.9% compared to 2020.
Although 28.5% of the total candidates currently waiting for transplant are black Americans, they included only 12.9% of organ donors in 2020. The overall number of white Americans on the organ transplant waiting list is about 1.4 times greater than that of black people, but the number of candidates waiting for a kidney transplant is roughly the same between the two groups.
“By the time they get on the list, it’s a must. And because of the long wait, many of them, of course, don’t make it to the transplant,” Hildreth said of the black candidates.
Last year, annual transplant records were set in three key areas including 24,669 kidney transplants, 9,236 liver transplants and 3,817 heart transplants. And of 57 organ procurement organizations nationwide, 49 saw an increase in 2020, and 45 set an all-time record for donors who recovered in a single year.
But inequalities still exist.
Jill Grandas, executive director of DCI Donor Services, an organ procurement organization serving Tennessee, New Mexico and California, said that DCI will work with HBCUs to raise awareness about transplant and organ donor becoming in communities and among health sectors. . She said her team confronts a level of mistrust among black Americans and others of color that is rooted in a historical lack of trust in a health system that has harmed their families and communities.
Another factor is the lack of industry leaders working to break down “barriers of trust” through education and direct programming, Grandus said. Grandus said organ procurement and transplant centers should have a lens of accountability to ensure they are working to address disparities.
“Equity is an issue that must be addressed,” Grandes said.
Renee Landers, HHS’s former deputy general manager who was on the authoring committee for the NASEM report, said she expects the initiative to drive more action to address transplant and donor disparities, and also in the health sector.
Landers, a law professor and faculty director of health and biomedical law at Suffolk University Law School, said, “Special focus on creating or encouraging people of color to go into health professions as physicians and other types of caregivers.” Giving is really important.” Boston. “And black medical schools can play a really important role in that.”
Stafford is located in Detroit. He is a national investigative race writer for Associated Press’s Race and Ethnicity Team. follow him on twitter https://twitter.com/kat__staffford,