UW Hospital Organ Procurement Organization Partners to Save Lives

Slogans like "Got Milk?" and "Just say no" have changed the way Americans think. But in Wisconsin, the slogan "Got your dot?" has changed the way residents act. That simple question is quickly working to raise the rates at which Wisconsinites place an orange donor dot on their driver's license and say "Yes" to donation.

"But that's just the beginning," says Dr. Tony D'Alessandro, medical director of the UW Health Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) in Madison. "The real work happens at hospitals throughout the state, where organ donations occur."

The UW Health OPO works closely with 104 hospitals in Wisconsin, upper Michigan and the Rockford area, its service area as assigned by the Federal Government. Experts from the OPO travel to hospitals to provide education and leadership, and share clinical best-practice knowledge and inspiration on organ donation and transplantation.

"Our relationships with our hospital partners are imperative to our success," says Jill Ellefson, Executive Director at the UW Health OPO. "Without each hospital's commitment to both ongoing education and sensitive patient communication, the state's organ donation rates would decline and many more people would die while waiting for an organ donor."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service Organ Transplantation Breakthrough Collaborative recently recognized 12 Wisconsin Hospitals with a Medal of Honor for their work in achieving a 75 percent donation rate, meaning that at least three-fourths of the people who were eligible to be a donor, became one.
The average in the UW Health OPO service area was 87 percent. The national average is just 70.7 percent. This is the first time that all 12 hospitals that were eligible received the medal.

Representatives from all 12 hospitals, as well as members of the UW Health OPO, celebrated their success when they joined the winners from other hospitals across the nation at the National Collaborative meeting in Nashville.

Adds D'Alessandro, "The work of OPO nurses, physicians and staff, and their ongoing commitment to donation has made Wisconsin a national leader. And now they've got the medals and awards to prove it."