This National Donate Life Month Alameda Health System (AHS) recognizes all those who have given the gift of life as organ and tissue donors and highlights the ongoing need for more registered donors, especially in communities of color.

“Every donor registration represents a life-saving opportunity for our patients, their families and the communities we serve,” shared Dusty Gilleland, RN and vice president of patient care services. In 2023, AHS helped save and heal over 35 people through organ donation and up to 2,175 people through tissue donation.

Gilleland currently oversees AHS’s decades-long partnership with Donor Network West, an organ and tissue recovery organization connecting organ donors to those in need in Alameda County, one of the most diverse counties in the country.

“At AHS, when a patient or their family member needs an organ, we work with Donor Network West and rely on their expertise to compassionately guide both our donors and recipients with empathy and respect during what can be an overwhelming time,” said Gilleland.

In addition, she shared the importance of understanding cultural nuances that can greatly impact organ donation in diverse populations. For example, in African American communities, negative attitudes toward donation and a lack of awareness about the need for transplantable organs may play a role in the critical shortage of organ donors, according to the Office of Minority Health (OMH).

African American, Hispanic and Asian populations are disproportionately underrepresented among registered donors and as a result, this imbalance contributes significantly to longer wait times for transplants and decreased survival rates among minority patients.

In the United States people of color make up 60% of the waitlist for organ transplants, but only 35% of all recovered organs come from non-white patients. In addition, the chance of success and long-term survival improves if the donor and recipient are closely matched by shared genetic background. Compatible blood types and tissue markers are important matching factors and more likely to be found among members of the same race or ethnicity.

Closing the donor disparity gap has never been more critical. In California, Hispanics make up 35% of those waiting for life-saving transplants, Asian and Pacific Islanders 16%, and African Americans 14%. Currently there are more than 20,000 people waiting on the State’s organ transplant list.

While shared ethnicity is not a requirement for matching organ donors and recipients, a more diverse donor registry gives everyone on the transplant waiting list a better chance to find a good donor match. Every organ donor can save eight lives, enhance 75 more and you can help.

Please join Donor Network West at one of the following AHS tabling events at Alameda, Highland and San Leandro Hospitals.

For those unable to attend, learn more about how to register to become an organ, eye and tissue donor at Donor Network West.