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Renee Bennett Profile 1

Renee Bennett: From ICU Nurse to Enterprise Director of Transplantation at The Cleveland Clinic


Renee Ellan Bennett, RN, BSN, MSN, says she never imagined that she would end up as the Senior Director of Enterprise Transplantation at The Cleveland Clinic. “I have been so, so lucky that people have believed in me and have given me chances to grow,” she says. “I’ve had so many amazing experiences.”

As the enterprise transplant administrator, she works closely with the administrators at each of The Cleveland Clinic’s three transplant centers in Cleveland, Weston, FL, and Abu Dhabi. “We’re looking at how to grow the transplant center as an enterprise. We have meetings with leadership from each of the heart teams or each of the liver teams or research people from each program. We’re looking to do our contracts with vendors at the enterprise level.”

Bennett joined the Board of Directors of the Organ Donation and Transplantation Alliance (The Alliance) in 2024. In addition to her many publications and presentations, she wrote the transplant administrator online learning module of The Alliance’s OnboardingU curriculum.

She is involved in numerous other professional organizations such as AORN, ISHLT, NATCO, ITNS, AST, ASTS and has a deep commitment to advancing knowledge in the field of transplantation. “I like being involved in organizations where I am exposed to other professionals in the transplant industry,” says Bennett. “I still learn something every day. Part of what I would love my legacy to be is helping other people be successful in the transplant administrator role and helping with the success of transplant overall.”

Path to The Cleveland Clinic

Bennett, an only child, grew up on a farm about five miles from Bowling Green, OH.  Her father was a policeman in Toledo and her mother worked in a factory. She says she was a bit of a tomboy and spent a great deal of time with her father, going hunting and watching football, as her parents worked opposite shifts.

“I started watching college football with my dad when the Ohio State Michigan rivalry was between Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler,” says Bennett. “My dad was a huge Ohio State fan and I wanted to irritate him, so I chose to root for Michigan. Even when I moved to Cleveland, I would always go home and watch the game with him until he passed away.”

She attended Eastern Michigan University for two years and then completed her nursing degree at Bowling Green State University. “My favorite uncle had an aortic valve replaced at The Cleveland Clinic and he said if you’re going to be a real nurse, you’ll work at The Cleveland Clinic in heart. I accepted a job there on Saint Patrick’s Day of my senior year in 1987 and have been there ever since.” She completed a Master of Science degree in Nursing Leadership from Grand Canyon University in 2019.

She began as an ICU nurse, then moved to the OR and scrubbed on cardiac cases. That was when the transplant director asked if she would take donor call and she ended up being the heart donor coordinator and pre-transplant coordinator for seven years.[/vc_column_text]

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Art Thompson was Important Mentor

When Dr. Charles Miller arrived in 2004 as The Cleveland Clinic’s new liver transplant director, he tapped Bennett to become the clinical manager of the liver transplant program, because of her commitment to excellence in transplant care. She benefitted from a strong mentor while she was in that role. “Art Thompson was a great mentor for me as an administrator,” says Bennett. “One thing that’s tough about being a transplant administrator with a nursing background is managing the finances and understanding all the finances was a challenge.”

“Art, who is now retired, is one of the most knowledgeable people I know, but he’s also one of the best humans I know,” she continues. “He pushes you, but he supports you and he’s there to catch you if you fall. I owe my entire career to him.” Bennett lists some of the lessons she learned from Thompson:

  • Not everything needs an immediate response;
  • Pick your battles;
  • How to develop a strategic plan; and
  • How to engage stakeholders.

She also notes that the transplant administrator group nationally is very collegial. “Any time that I’ve ever reached out for help or advice, somebody has responded. It’s just so nice that everybody wants the same thing. They just want to see people get transplanted.”

Most Rewarding Role and Accomplishment

A few years ago in The Cleveland Clinic Transplant Center’s annual report, Bennett said that her most rewarding role has been calling a patient to tell them that there’s an organ for them. When she was serving as the clinical manager of liver transplantation, she called a patient at home to tell him there was a liver available for him. ”I ended up having to call 911 for him because he was having chest pains because he was so excited about getting a transplant. I used to tell people that were waiting at home to pretend that you’re nine months pregnant–a full nine months pregnant. Keep your bag packed. Know who’s going to watch your dog. Keep gas in your car. Be ready to go anytime I call you.”

She also recounts the story of a heart transplant patient, nearly 28 years ago, who was in the hospital, and she was on call overnight. “I called him in his room around 2 a.m. and said, “Mr. Wotowitz, I have a heart for you.’ He now calls me every year on the anniversary of that call at 1:57 a.m. to thank me.”

She went on to say that her most rewarding accomplishment has been to participate in the development and growth of the Cleveland Clinic Florida Transplant Center, where she served as director of transplant services from 2013 to 2021.

Personal Interests

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Bennett loves to vacation at the beach, and she cooks dinner most Sundays for her adult daughter, who is a family support liaison at LifeBanc, the OPO in Cleveland, where Bennett serves on the board of directors. “She did volunteer work with them growing up”, says Bennett. “When she was young and I was a donor coordinator, we got to be very close to them. Her godmother works at Lifebanc just because we spent so much time there.”

Bennett gets up at 4 a.m. and exercises on the elliptical, does Pilates, or does spinning. She loves to read and walks five miles on summer mornings with Ruby, her Shih Tzu- Bichon dog. Her boyfriend lives in Chicago, and she visits him there and in the summers they spend weekends at his farm in northern Michigan.

“If somebody told me I could go back to the O.R. and scrub cases every day, I’d be happy as can be,” says Bennett. “I loved that job. I loved donor call. I’ve been really, really lucky in that I’ve always loved what I’m doing.”

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Bennett with her dog Ruby


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