PHILADELPHIA – The Penn Transplant Institute at Penn Medicine has opened a new Center for Living Donation which will expand Penn’s exceptional care for living donors, helping to maximize the number of lives saved through liver and kidney transplantation. For the thousands waiting on a lifesaving organ, living donation-when a living person donates an organ, or part of an organ, for transplantation to another person-can help those in need receive life-saving care sooner.
Housed at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, the Center for Living Donation expands the Penn Transplant Institute’s work through a more robust, dedicated team of clinicians, donation specialists, and staff committed to delivering a supportive experience for those who generously decide to donate a gift of life. The center’s experts will continue to provide high-quality care for transplant patients and donors, while creating more opportunities for those in need of transplants to receive the organs they need-and a chance at a healthy future. The center will also work to educate the greater Philadelphia community about the safety and impact of living-donor transplants through community events, informational sessions, partnerships with local organizations, and marketing campaigns.
Building off of Penn’s leadership and decades of transplant and organ donation expertise, the center will counsel and care for interested donors-both those who already have a potential individual they hope to donate to, or those who would be willing to participate in a paired-kidney exchange, or donate to anyone in need through a non-directed donation to the United States transplant waiting list.
“My brother-in-law required a liver transplant last year, so I have a very deep appreciation for the extraordinary impact that organ donation and transplant can have on a family,” said Regina Cunningham, PhD, RN, the chief executive officer of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “One person is added to the transplant waitlist every nine minutes. This growing need for transplants can be stemmed if more living donors step forward to truly help create positive change and save lives. Of course, this also builds on Penn’s leadership as top transplant and organ-donor experts, and we hope this center helps to drive more transplants in our community from the generosity of living donors at Penn.”
This center comes at a time when the need for organ donation and transplantation is higher than it has been the past. In the greater Philadelphia region alone, there are thousands of people in critical need of a liver or kidney transplant. Living donor transplantation is a life-saving measure for people with end-stage liver or kidney disease-and it is a better alternative for most transplant candidates than those from deceased donors, as organs from living donors may last longer. There are also many more individuals who require a lifesaving liver or kidney transplant than there are deceased donors, which creates a unique opportunity for those who are healthy and wish to be donors. If an individual wants to be an organ donor but does not have an intended recipient, their organ can go to someone in the region who is on the national waiting list.
“Organ transplants are one of the most effective and incredible treatments in modern medicine,” said Robert R. Redfield, III, MD, surgical director of the Living Donor Kidney Transplant program at Penn Medicine. “Penn is especially equipped to carefully guide living donor candidates through the evaluation process-making it a thorough yet easy process for potential donors. During the evaluation process, prospective donors will be in contact with a Penn patient navigator to guide them and answer questions along the way. The attention on and care of the donor, along with the exceptional medical care the donors will receive before, during, and after the donation make the Center for Living Donation truly stand out among similar donor centers around the country.”
The center has also begun a donor mentor program where prospective donors can speak to individuals who have already been through the process of donation. These connections can help donors feel more comfortable and informed about donation and recovery.
There are no medical costs for living donors throughout the entire donation process. For those interested in donating but who are concerned about potential costs associated with lodging or being out of work during any necessary recovery, the center’s patient navigators connect them directly with organizations that help fund living donors.
Penn has close to 60 years of transplant experience, beginning with the success of its first kidney transplant in 1966. Today, Penn performs more total transplants than any other institution in the region. Just this summer, a multidisciplinary team at Penn performed it’s 1,500th lung transplant which marked a milestone only a handful of healthcare centers have reached. Penn is also a leader in uterus transplant innovation, with five babies born to women who’ve received these life-changing transplants. The first came in 2019, with the birth of baby Benjamin to parents Jennifer and Drew Gobrecht.