Seeing potential for avoiding missed opportunities in the referral process for organ donors is an example of a compounded innovation that Yvette Chapman, chair-elect of the National Innovation Leadership Council of the Organ Donation and Transplantation Alliance, is known for in her career as a transplant nurse, transplant coordinator and now as vice president of Business Partner Development at Southwest Transplant Alliance (STA) in Dallas. STA is one of 57 organ procurement organizations (OPOs) in the U.S. and serves 10 hospital transplant centers and 270 hospitals in 89 Texas counties and one in Arkansas.
“I’m finalizing the details on how to cast that wider net for our hospitals, how do we say in the face of terminal, irreversible death so we don’t miss those donors who might be able to decide for themselves to become organ donors because there’s true potential. We did not realize that there was true potential until we started seeing COVID patients that came to the hospital completely fine present to the hospital. Then, they have to put on airway protection, then they have to go on ECMO, and now they’re not going to recover and they can make the decision to become an organ donor.”
Chapman says she was connected with the innovation side of donation and transplantation several years ago when she was the director of Transplant Center Development at STA and led a year-long project that resulted in the creation of an Organ Utilization Tool (OUT) that the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) has offered to OPOs since 2017. OUT visually illustrates the characteristics and outcomes of organs that local transplant centers turned down that were transplanted elsewhere.
“We were increasingly year-over-year having more organs available for transplant and transplanting more organs, but not as many that were staying in our service area,” says Chapman. “More of them were going outside of the service area, not as a result of allocation, but as a result of our transplant centers turning them down for quality and other reasons, but other transplant programs were accepting them. My first job was to get in and understand what were their reasons.”
Chapman met with STA’s transplant centers. “Every one of them said, ‘Our experience has told us that these organs are not utilized, but you’re telling us they’re being utilized elsewhere. Can you come up with a way to show us the outcomes of those organs?’”
Over the next year, Chapman met with medical directors and surgical directors at 10 transplant centers with 29 transplant programs–heart, liver, kidney, lung, and pancreas– and asked what elements they wanted to see. She then partnered with Meg Rogers, director of Transplant Center Relations at LifeSource, the OPO in Minneapolis, to create the tool. “The tool would not be what it is without all of that cross-collaboration,“ says Chapman. “I couldn’t have even dreamed that I knew what was the right level of information for the Transplant Centers. And they had no idea what information the OPOs had access to provide and that we were willing to make changes. Without having that exchange, there’s no possible way for innovative changes to occur. And this tool was an absolute game-changer for our programs.”
“My days as a quality director taught me there’s opportunity to always look for process improvement and new ways to present information and new ways of sharing it,” says Chapman. “One of the things that our OPO is really striving for is to take those new ideas and not keep them to ourselves, but make sure that we share them with our partners to improve the community as a whole.”
Chapman joined STA as director of quality in 2013 and with a background as a transplant nurse and transplant coordinator it was a natural progression for her to move into a newly created role of director of Transplant Center Development. She then assumed the role of vice president of business partner development a little over two years ago. “All of those entities that are outward-facing regarding relationship building, whether it’s with our donor families, our hospital partners, or our community partners, all report up through me,” she says.
Her route to the world of organ donation and transplantation was a bit circuitous. After graduating as a microbiologist from Louisiana State University, she worked in cytogenetic research at LSU Medical Center for several years. When her husband was transferred to Northwest Arkansas and their family moved there, Chapman stayed home and took care of their two young sons. She met some other young women who were planning to go to the University of Arkansas to study nursing and decided to join them. “I absolutely loved it. I knew that it was my mission and purpose.”
She became the president of the Student Nurses Association for the State of Arkansas and met a recruiter for Methodist Dallas Hospital System at a conference who recruited her for a position in their transplant unit. She became an organ transplantation nurse, and her husband was transferred to Dallas. She later became the Senior Transplant Coordinator at The Liver Institute at Methodist Dallas Medical Center and prior to joining STA, she was in clinical operations at Dallas Nephrology Associates, where she served as the Office Practice Manager. “I’ve never done anything but transplant nursing and then on the recipient and OPO side.”
Chapman’s father was in the military, and she was born in Massachusetts and lived in London until she was five. But her parents were from Louisiana and returned there with their young family. With an older brother and sister and growing up in rural Louisiana, she was very much an outdoors girl. “We had horses and cows. And I played football and baseball with my brother. I grew up very much a tomboy who loved to fish. I love to play sports and ride my horses. I was on the high school rodeo team. Barrel racing was my event.”
Chapman has been married for 33 years and she and her husband have two young adult sons. She says they also have a four-legged child named Riley who is a rescue half German shepherd, half mastiff mix. “She is probably the smartest dog we’ve ever owned,” says Chapman. “If she feels that we’re upset, she brings us a toy and just sits with us with her toys.”
Chapman loves to fish and before the pandemic, she and her husband went on a fishing vacation in the Bahamas every year. Their dream is to retire to a house on a remote island there. Last year, a Mother’s Day gift of an epoxy tumbler kit from one of her sons has turned into a side business for Chapman where she makes customized drink tumblers.
She became involved with The Alliance six years ago and served on the Community Resource Toolbox workgroup. She then signed up to be a mentor in the Mentoring Program and joined the Innovation Council three years ago. She also serves on the board of directors for the Texas Transplant Society and is a member of the UNOS Transplant Administrators Committee.