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Living Organ Donors Honored at New Event


Some donated to a sick loved one; others to a total stranger. Most gave up a kidney; a few, a part of their liver. But what they had in common at the University of Utah's Living Donor Celebration on June 3 was that each sacrificed an awful lot so another person could get a second chance.

Health Sciences Senior Vice President Vivian Lee, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A. gave the opening remarks and welcomed our heroic donors and their guests to the University's very first Living Donor Celebration.

Since 2013, the University has performed about 144 living donor transplants (two were liver; the rest were kidney), and each of those donors and their families were invited to the celebration to hear from University leaders, surgeons and fellow donors; mingle with others who have walked a similar path; and enjoy food and refreshments. Some even had the opportunity to meet their recipient.

"People who donate a kidney set themselves apart from the rest of us," Fuad Shihab, M.D. — medical director of our Pancreas Transplantation program and director of our Kidney and Liver Clinics — told the guests. "They represent society, and their selfless gift should not and does not go unnoticed."

Among the University leaders who came to speak to the group was Jeff Campsen, M.D., surgical director of Living Donor Kidney Transplantation, who said "These donors will always be part of our transplant family, and we, as a program, will continue to make every effort to offer them support and our sincere appreciation for their precious gift."

The University's Living Donor Transplant program will likely host this kind of event honoring organ donors every few years so individuals and their families can learn more about the transplantation, the program, the impact of their gift, and connect with others. At Friday's event, a signup sheet for future group service projects circulated.

"It's like, they're not done giving yet," said Melissa Morales, a social worker in the transplant program.

In closing of the celebration, Robin Kim, M.D., executive medical director of the transplant service line, offered his thankfulness and appreciation to the group of donors as well as the faculty and staff who have played such impactful roles in both the donation process and support of the transplant programs.

"Based on the tremendous amount of positive sentiment from both recipients and their donors, I am confident that the University of Utah Living Donor Transplant Program will continue to grow and thrive for years to come," Kim said.