Bill Snyder: Reflecting on a Career He Loved
On Bill Snyder’s first day working as an operating room tech at University Hospital in 1989, he caught sight of a surgeon dressed in scrubs and wearing boots. “Who’s that?” he asked a co-worker. The other tech replied that it was Dr. Folkert Belzer, chairman of the Department of Surgery and head of the transplant program. “I didn’t know who he was,” Bill says, “I had no idea about transplant, and it turned into my whole career.”
After learning about many aspects of organ, tissue and eye donation at American Red Cross Tissue Services and Eye Bank of Wisconsin, Bill began working at UW Organ and Tissue Donation (UW OTD) in 2000 as an organ procurement coordinator. He spent the next 18 years helping manage organ donations and comforting donor families during the worst days of their lives. “At the beginning, we did everything,” says Bill. “There were only about 10 of us working at UW OTD. Now there are more than 40 people who all work together to serve and support donor families, hospitals and the community.”
In May 2018, Bill retired from the job he loved so much. Now, he lives in northeastern Wisconsin — where he grew up — and plans to spend his days fishing and duck hunting.
In his role as an organ procurement coordinator, Bill provided medical management for all aspects of organ donation. When UW OTD received word that an individual within a service area was eligible for organ donation, the staff members at that hospital worked with the family to obtain consent. Once the family consented, Bill went into action — he used the patient’s blood samples and chest X-rays to test for diseases, uploaded the patient’s information into the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) database, offered the organs to other transplant centers as dictated by UNOS, set the surgery time after determining where the organs would go, assembled a team to travel to the patient’s hospital, and met with the patient’s family to answer any questions. “It all has to do with timing,” he says. “As an organ procurement coordinator, the day is very busy from the time you get to work until the time you leave. That’s the unique thing about transplant — it’s always moving. The rules and regulations are changing constantly.”
At UW OTD, Bill says, the staff are always looking for better ways to provide more life-saving transplants for patients. Because of this work, they have been able to double the number of lungs they have recovered, as compared to previous years.
“We’re lucky at UW OTD,” he says. “We’ve got a great system and great people. We’re like a big family. It’s one of the most awesome things I’ve ever experienced. I’m proud to have worked for this organization.”