Jenna Lawson, MS, abdominal transplant quality consultant at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, is committed to sharing her expertise in transplant quality metrics and has found a forum for doing so as a member of the Transplant Quality Corner Work Group of The Alliance.
Lawson co-authored the first issue of The Alliance’s Transplant Quality Corner last spring on “Organ Offer Acceptance Ratios: The New MPSC Metrics.” “Writing these Quality Corners have been helpful to do a dive deep into metrics and assist others,” says Lawson. “My mentees and other colleagues at conferences have mentioned that these resources are helpful. It’s a rewarding experience to share our knowledge and collectively elevate the field of practice.”
The Transplant Quality Corner offers a series of publications that focus on the latest metrics, data collection and monitoring methods for improving transplant center outcomes. Each issue includes an executive summary, background information, essential tools, action items to implement, references and resources that can be downloaded as a one-page summary document.
“Most of the time we tend to think about our own experience,” says Lawson. “It’s been valuable to serve on this workgroup with professionals who have different perspectives. This collaboration results in much more effective resources for our community.”
“The second issue of the Quality Corner was about the implementation of a new policy, “OPTN Modifying Waiting Time for Candidates Affected by Race-Inclusive eGFR Calculations,” she continues. “It was especially helpful hearing about other people’s experience for how they were handling the change, because it involved a lot of work and contacting patients. We got a lot of good ideas on ways that we could improve so it was very helpful.”
Lawson recently worked on another Transplant Quality Corner that covers pre-transplant mortality. In addition, she’s sharing her expertise as the moderator of two Alliance webinars: Performance Improvement: How to Handle MPSC Metrics for Transplant Programs on January 25, 2024 and The New MPSC Transplant Performance Metrics: Are You Ready? on February 28, 2024. Lindsay Smith, RN, MSN, transplant quality director at Vanderbilt Transplant Center and Lawson’s boss, will present at both sessions.
Journey to Transplant Quality Role
Lawson, an only child, grew up in Delaware and moved to Philadelphia when she was in high school where her parents still live. She was interested in health care and medicine and a family friend who was a cardiologist piqued her interest in cardiac rehabilitation which led her to major in health and exercise science at Wake Forest University. She then received a master’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of Tennessee and started working in cardiac rehab at Vanderbilt in 2012.
“That’s when I was introduced to transplant,” says Lawson. “The first heart transplant patient that I worked with was very early on in my career. You walk into the room and this person had chest tubes and a catheter and an IV and just a million lines and stuff going everywhere. After working with this patient for several days in a row, they get out of bed and they’re walking, and they get better. Thinking about the fact that someone else’s heart is in that person’s body that’s allowing them to be with their wife and play with their grandchildren I just thought it was so amazing. It was incredible to witness this person have a new life because of someone else’s gift.”
“The more I learned about transplant, the more I liked it,” she adds. “It’s such a cutting-edge field; there are always new therapies and new treatments. Transplant brought together my desire to help other people and my intellectual curiosity, so I decided to get involved with transplant and joined the transplant team as a data manager in 2016.” After a little less than year, she became a transplant quality consultant, a role she still holds.
“My parents and Ursuline, the Catholic girl’s school that I attended, instilled the values of helping other people and doing the best you can to improve the lives of those around you,” she says. “Seeing the tangible impact that we’re having on people’s lives is what drew me to medicine and to transplant specifically. Participating in the process that’s giving lifesaving service is important to me.”
Vanderbilt Transplant Center Quality Team
When Lawson became a transplant quality consultant in 2017, she collected clinical data on all organ transplants but due to the growth of Vanderbilt’s program, she now specializes in abdominal organ transplants and a colleague handles thoracic organs. In 2023, Vanderbilt performed 739 solid organ transplants, a record number.
The transplant quality team also includes data managers and data analysts. “I still collect clinical data on all of our patients, but my role is to take all of the data that we’re gathering, determine if there are any trends, and then distribute that analysis to our physicians and leadership,” says Lawson. “It’s keeping a pulse on how the programs are doing and as time has gone on, our department has really gotten into projecting our results.”
Three times a year, Lawson prepares a comprehensive Quality Assessment Performance Improvement (QAPI) report for each organ group that she presents to everyone involved—physicians, surgeons, coordinators, nurses, transplant leadership, hospital leadership, and hospital quality staff. “The report encompasses everything that’s going on in the program,” says Lawson. “It covers volume, referrals, evaluations, listings, transplants, clinical data, the SRTR outcome releases that show how we’re doing, adverse events, and education. Those presentations really pull together all the different aspects of my job.”
Lawson is involved in monitoring clinical data to determine the impact of new therapies on patients. “It’s a very collaborative process,” says Lawson. “Sometimes physicians will come to me and ask me to monitor the impact of a change. Sometimes, I’ll notice something in the trend data and take it to our physicians. Each individual piece of data can’t tell you very much, but by looking at it in the aggregate, you can see trends and then make changes that improves the program’s quality and our patients lives. That’s really rewarding to me.”
Values and Mentoring
“My parents instilled the values of being a hard worker, being conscientious, taking ownership of my work, and helping other people. Lindsay Smith, my current boss, has been a big influence as well. She’s been a wonderful mentor to me.”
Lawson is also a mentor in The Alliance’s Mentorship program and has worked with several mentees so far. “I lay out the groundwork of the things that they’re struggling with and things they are looking to improve, and then we go from there. We normally meet monthly with an agenda and email back and forth in between. Being at Vanderbilt which is such a big transplant center and being in transplant since 2016, I’ve experienced a lot of issues that come up with my mentees, so it’s been helpful to share my experiences with them.”
Lawson is married and has two young children ages three and six. Her daughter is in kindergarten, and their family is spending time getting to know the kindergarten community and their evenings and weekends are filled with practices for soccer and swimming. Lawson, who played field hockey and lacrosse in high school, likes to work out and run and completed her first half marathon in 2023. She also likes to cook and read and recently enjoyed The Thursday Murder Club series by Richard Osman.