Dual Transplant Jobs Provide Unique View on Organ Donation
by Laura Miyashita
When Transplant Surgeon Nikole Neidlinger, M.D. isn’t performing kidney and pancreas transplant surgery at California Pacific Medical Center, she serves as Medical Director of California Transplant Donor Network (CTDN), the organ and tissue recovery agency for northern and central California and Nevada.
Splitting her time between these positions provides Neidlinger with a unique view on organ transplantation. “You really understand the importance of referring an organ donor once you see a transplant recipient and the positive impact on their life,” she explains.
Working to Increase Organ Donation
Part of Neidlinger’s job at CTDN is to help educate hospital physicians about the organ donation process in an effort to increase donation rates. In 2010, CTDN had a 65% donation rate with 274 organ donors, meaning that of all eligible donors in the region, 65% donated. In comparison, states such as Wisconsin, Utah and Pennsylvania enjoy donation rates of 80-85%.
Neidlinger works closely with local hospitals to form collaborations between doctors and CTDN. “We train physicians about what in a patient’s status should trigger a call to CTDN and then CTDN’s role in communicating with potential donor families,” she explains. “We also want doctors to know about the organ donation process since patients trust their health care provider.”
In her day-to-day work at CTDN, Neidlinger leads a morning meeting to discuss every potential donor referral in the region. CTDN’s region covers is comprised of 11.5 million individuals. “On a daily basis we have five to 10 potential donors who are close to brain or cardiac death—the eligibility requirements for organ donor consideration,” says Neidlinger. She also educates the community about organ and tissue donation through hospital staff presentations and conferences.
Supply versus Demand
While donation rates across the country have increased, the supply is still not close to meeting demand. Neidlinger explains, “In the past 10 years we have become more aggressive with the types of donors we accept—introducing extended criteria donors and donation after cardiac death donors—but the organ waitlist is climbing faster than donation.”
In working with organ donor families and recipients, Neidlinger encourages both to share their story. “People don’t know about donation and transplant, so it makes such an impact to relate your experience.” For Neidlinger, it is these stories and meeting donor families that make her job worthwhile. She relates, “It is rewarding to do something each day that changes people’s lives. By working on both the donation and transplant sides, I get to see the gift of life going full circle.”
article from Spring Summer 2011Kidney Review newsletter