Educating the Medical Professionals of Tomorrow

Ripple Effect



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Students in health care studies today will soon become vital to the organ donation mission. UW Organ and Tissue Donation (UW OTD) staff have been working to educate these future decision-makers so they will be equipped to advise families and promote organ donation.


In March, Mary Nachreiner, community development specialist at UW OTD, helped organize a panel discussion at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. The discussion was sponsored by the Surgical Interest Group, a collection of first-year medical students who have expressed an interest in becoming surgeons.


The panel included five speakers who talked about the process of organ donation and transplant from beginning to end: Mary, whose daughter Kelly became an organ donor after losing her life in a car accident; Adam Karlen, BSN, RN, CCRN, organ procurement coordinator with UW OTD; Matt Bock, surgical recovery specialist at UW Hospital and Clinics; Josh Mezrich, MD, transplant surgeon at UW Hospital and Clinics; and Cecile Johnson of Middleton, Wis., a liver transplant recipient.


"I think the panel gave the students a good global perspective of the process," says Mary. "So much of this process is new to them, particularly the donation part."


Cecile, now 31, received a liver when she was 16. She recently moved here from Chicago, and the panel was her first opportunity to volunteer with UW OTD.


"I think my being part of the panel helped to show that transplantation doesn't just delay death for sick people, but restores many back to full health," she says. "I was two months pregnant at the time of the panel. Even I am pretty amazed that after all my body has been through, it's bounced back and is able to grow another human being."


Michael Sookochoff, the first-year medical student who organized the panel, said the group hopes to turn the donation transplant panel into an annual event. "It helps us learn how we should talk to our patients' families about organ donation," he said.


Another opportunity to share the message of organ donation came in March at the UW Interprofessional Conference, a one-day event for any student entering a health-related field. Trey Schwab, UW OTD's outreach coordinator, spoke about ethical considerations of organ donation. Among the topics Trey covered were:

  • The process that is followed when a patient is a registered donor
  • Making sure consent has been properly obtained
  • How organ donation staff members work with families to educate them about their options
  • How families need to honor the patient's decision, even if they would have made a different decision themselves

"It's important for anyone going into a health-related field to know how our system works," says Trey. "When they enter the professional world, a lot of these students will be faced with donation situations and decisions. We want to make sure they are familiar with how the organ donation process works."