August 24, 2022

New exhibit promotes importance of organ donors from all racial and ethnic backgrounds

Madison, Wis. – A new multimedia exhibit on display this month at University Hospital is designed to raise awareness about organ donation and to help increase the number of donated organs and tissues from people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

More than 100,000 people in the U.S. are currently waiting for lifesaving organ transplants, and nearly 60 percent of those waiting represent Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC).

The exhibit is called “LifeLine: The Ultimate Bond,” and it includes inspiring personal testimonies about organ and tissue donation by Milwaukee members of Divine Nine, a group of historically Black Greek-letter fraternities and sororities. The exhibit is sponsored by UW Organ and Tissue Donation (UW OTD) and Versiti, an organ and tissue donation program in Milwaukee.

“This exhibit creates an opportunity for dialogue and awareness about the need for more registered donors,” said Dr. Nikole Neidlinger, associate medical director, OTD, and associate professor of surgery, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

“Although transplants can be successful regardless of the race or ethnicity of the donor and recipient, there’s a greater chance of longer-term survival if the shared genetic background of the donor and recipient are closely matched. That is why we all benefit when individuals of all ethnicities and races register as organ, eye and tissue donors.”

Due to factors such as high rates of diabetes and high blood pressure, African Americans account for 28 percent of the national waitlist for kidney donations. Hispanic/Latinx people account for 21 percent, followed by Asian Pacific Islanders and American Indian/Alaska Native people.

Additional information about the exhibit can be found at

Facts about organ and tissue donation:

  • People of all ages and medical histories should consider registering as deceased donors.
    Registering as a donor does not change medical care. Donation is only an option when a person is declared clinically and legally dead.

  • All major religions support donation as a final act of compassion and generosity.

  • There is no financial cost to the donor’s family or estate.

  • A donor’s social or financial status doesn’t matter. A national system matches available organs from the donor with people on the waiting list based on many factors, including things like blood type and body size. Race, income, gender, celebrity and social status are never considered.

  • Registering one’s donation decision at relieves the donor’s family of having to decide at a time of loss and grief.