The nation's four historically Black medical schools have formed a partnership aiming to diversify the pool of organ donors and to recruit more Black workers in the organ transplantation field.
The Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Howard University College of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, Morehouse School of Medicine have teamed up with the Organ Donation Advocacy Group and the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, they announced Thursday.
Under the partnership, the medical schools will establish programs across their curricula and create training opportunities for Black medical and nursing students within transplant centers.
The organizations also plan to harness historically Black colleges and universities' community networks to host blood drives and to tap local faith leaders and schools to increase donor registrations and educate communities about organ donation.
"To have a group of people who can overcome some of the distrust that people of color might have in the healthcare system will be really important," said Renée Landers, director of health law at Suffolk University.
A National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine working group published a report this year recommending a major overhaul of the transplantation system to address health disparities.
Referrals for organ transplants vary significantly based on race, gender, immigration status, disability and socioeconomic status. For example, researchers have that found Black people are three times more likely to develop kidney failure but significantly less likely to receive transplants.
The National Academies authors found significant variation in how donated organ are managed and distributed. They also uncovered waste: Approximately 20% of kidneys donated in 2019 were never transplanted, the report shows.
The HBCU partnership will enhance ongoing outreach to promote organ donations in minority communities, said Jerry McCauley, vice president of United Network for Organ Sharing, a not-for-profit organization that operates the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.
"We need to do a better job nationwide being sure that we're getting culturally competent people who can address people in the appropriate way so that they're getting the information that they need, and they're treated in a way that would improve the chances of them being an organ donor," McCauley said. "I'm hoping that combining this group for the long term will end up improving the rate of organ donation."