The University of Toledo Medical Center is being honored for the third year in a row for its efforts to educate people about becoming organ donors.
UTMC is among a select group of hospitals and transplant centers nationwide being recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for reaching gold-level status. The hospitals are part of the national Workplace Partnership for Life Hospital Campaign, sponsored by the department’s Health Resources and Services Administration.“Education about organ donation is so important because a lot of people don’t even think of it as an option,” said Kristin Calkins, director of trauma services at UTMC. “Organ donation is not something that we talk about, which makes it difficult for surviving family members to decide what to do when it isn’t listed on a driver’s license. We want to make sure that people’s wishes are known.”
UTMC hosted several events in the past nine months that educated staff, patients, visitors and community members about the critical need for organ, eye and tissue donors.
One of the signature events was bringing in the mobile education vehicle through Life Connection of Ohio to UT’s Health Science Campus in April. The 25-foot-long mobile education experience gave people an opportunity to learn the history of transplantation, listen to stories of Ohioans whose lives have been touched by donation, dispel common misconceptions about donating, review what can be donated, and join the Ohio Donor Registry online.
“We thought this would help hospital staff and visitors visualize the importance of considering becoming an organ donor,” said Valerie Augustyniak, a communication student at The University of Toledo who managed the awareness campaign. “A lot of misinformation exists about organ donation, and we want people to make a decision based on the facts. For instance, your medical treatment will not suffer because you are listed as an organ donor. Every effort will be made to save someone’s life regardless of organ donor status.”
Since launching in 2011, the national Workplace Partnership for Life Hospital Campaign has added more than 350,000 donor enrollments to state registries around the country.
Calkins said it is hard to keep track of who becomes a donor through UTMC’s efforts because registering as a donor can be done in person or online. The main point of the campaign is to educate people on the topic and then let them decide, she said.
“We know this is a sensitive topic for some, so we don’t want to tell people what to do,” she said. “We just want to let people know that it is an option and that organ donation also can include giving soft tissue; it doesn’t have to be a heart or a liver.”