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Remonia Chapman Profile Feature

Multicultural Donation Professional Remonia Chapman Honored for Commitment of Head and Heart

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2021 was a banner year for Remonia Chapman, director of public education and community relations at Gift of Life Michigan. She received three major awards for her work promoting organ and tissue donation in multicultural communities including the Trey Schwab Coaching Legacy Award from Donate Life America, the Michigan Medicine Leadership Award, and the Clive Calendar, MD Circle of Excellence Award from the National Multicultural Action Group. She shared the last award with Bobby Howard, a dear friend and director of multicultural donation at LifeLink of Georgia. To top it all off, she received her doctorate of ministry from the Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit.

Chapman also directs the Gift of Life Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program (MOTTEP) and is the executive director of the Detroit MOTTEP Foundation. She serves on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee of the Organ Donation and Transplantation Alliance. “Our work on the DEI Committee has been to elevate diversity, equity and inclusion in the transplant industry on all different levels,” says Chapman. “I really think of it as being focused on health care justice to make sure that those things that need to be discussed are being talked about. I look at it as an opportunity to talk about the importance of language and how that language impacts not only those persons who are on the receiving end, but those persons who are providing the service and how differences in language can create a barrier that we’re not even aware of.” 

“Diversity offers such a plethora of information that we’ll never get if we continue to not have these difficult conversations integrated in everything that we do,” she adds. “Just realizing that diversity is the center of life. It’s here and in everything that we do. No two of us are alike. And therefore, diversity enters into the picture. I want to be a catalyst in these changing conversations.”

Her commitment to the DEI Committee is strong. “The Alliance is so great in that it provides this common space of grace that we can all come together and talk about things. We can agree to disagree and not allow it to become personal or divisive or dismissive. That’s what I love about The Alliance. I see this promise to do more. And I see that undergirded with commitment and with the courage to have uncomfortable conversations for change. The other thing I love about The Alliance is that the conversations are internal to the donation and transplantation community. The Alliance is having uncomfortable conversations within the industry to equip everyone to have better conversations outside of the industry.”

Remonia Chapman 3In her role at Gift of Life Michigan, Chapman leads a team of five community outreach coordinators and plans to add three public education specialists who will go into high schools throughout Michigan to present programs on organ donation. Under her leadership, Gift of Life MOTTEP and the Detroit MOTTEP Foundation have received national awards for increasing organ donation awareness and rates in Michigan. National MOTTEP has honored the Gift of Life MOTTEP as a model program because of its community collaborations, partnerships and community empowerment. The multicultural donation rate has more than doubled, from 10 percent to 25 percent, with about 70 percent of the eligible Michigan population now signed up to donate.

Chapman says she was always interested in medicine and after graduating from Wayne State University with degrees in biology and psychology, she worked for a community health organization and as a project coordinator for multiple cancer screening programs at the Karmanos Cancer Institute. She was recruited to Gift of Life Michigan in 1997 by Alfred Bolden. “He had me interview with Dr. Clive Calendar at National MOTTEP and with Gift of Life Michigan,” says Chapman. “I shared that it was an opportunity to bring the three disciplines of my life together–science, spirituality and education.”

Over the years, the strength of the donor families has never ceased to amaze Chapman. “Their capacity to love beyond the moment and to push beyond their own personal pain, to go into this place of love and care, I don’t even have the words to describe watching that occur,” she says. “But the ones that motivate me the most are the ones that are waiting because they have put their trust in that each and every day there’s somebody out there working on their behalf. There’s someone out there that’s trying to get this information into the ears and into the hearts and into the hands of someone that could change their life. They have put their trust in this system that is life or death for them.”

Chapman served as a deacon at the Hartford  Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit for 18 years and in 2015 became an associate minister. “Growing up, there was always this belief that there was something greater than we are and that there would come times in life when human answers would not be enough and that you needed to believe and have something that you could depend on. I don’t ever recall a time when I was not spiritually connected. When one looks at the human body and its capacity to do all of these things under self-regulation, that’s just amazing to me. And then you take organ donation, and when something no longer has life, it can be used in one person, but you can remove it and put it in someone else, and they can have 10, 15, 30 years of life. Intellectually that does not make sense. The more I became entrenched in organ donation, I began to grow spiritually in a different dimension that I was not even aware of.” 

Chapman notes that most people don’t get out of bed in the morning thinking about organ donation. “Our job is to create the environment and experiences that cause them to become a little bit more cognizant of this gift that they have and that they have not thought about. You don’t want them to think about it when they’re in a tragic situation, you want them to think about it beforehand and have it become part of their life experience.”

In her free time, Chapman plays golf, spends time with her family and friends including seven wonderful godchildren, and is active in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. “Sometimes I just like to go and just dream that one day something is going to happen and it’s just going to be a great awakening in humanity. And we’re going to all love each other and it’s going to be absolutely fantastic. And some of those things that you know are hurting us now will no longer be.”

From 2014-17, Chapman served as president of the Association for Multicultural Affairs in Transplantation (AMAT). She will celebrate 25 years at the Gift of Life Michigan in 2022. “We just celebrated our 50th anniversary at Gift of Life Michigan and MOTTEP has been there for 27 of those 50 years.” 

“Every day has not been perfect, but every day has promise,” she adds. “I’ve been there long enough now to see the growth from persistence and perseverance that I didn’t always think I would see. But to see it now and to see the potential that it has and that my team and I have an opportunity to pour even more into so that the legacy of donation continues. It’s just not a job. It’s a commitment of head and heart.”

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