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The Alliance Presents Second Annual Awards to Outstanding Leaders in the Community of Practice


Last week, The Alliance presented its second annual leadership awards, recognizing individuals who have been invaluable in their contributions to Alliance programs that advance the national community of practice. Four awards were presented to leaders in the community of practice at The Alliance National Critical Issues Forum on September 15, 2022 in Orlando. The presentation ceremony was sponsored by Nationwide Organ Recovery Transport Alliance (NORA).


The Alliance Rising Leader Award recognizes an outstanding member of The Alliance’s national workgroups and committees. Through proven commitment to advancing the national community of practice, this individual establishes themselves as an emerging leader in the field of organ donation and transplantation.

The 2022 recipient of The Alliance Rising Leader Award is Michelle Reef, Director of Hospital and Partner Relations for Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network in Chicago. Deanna Fenton, Alliance Senior Manager of Educational Program Development and Operations, presented the award and shared, “Over the years, Michelle has been a cherished member of The Alliance’s community of dedicated volunteers – extending across many of our learning programs and development opportunities, including The Alliance Mentorship Program. Most recently, Michelle joined the Alliance National Donation Leadership Council, where she aids in developing resources to address the critical needs of the community.”

Dr. Harry Wilkins, President and CEO of Gift of Hope – along with a host of colleagues – congratulated Reef by sharing, “I am so thrilled that you’re getting the recognition outside of Gift of Hope because we certainly appreciate you inside of Gift of Hope. Michelle, you’re so deserving of this award, congratulations and I’m so proud of you.”


The Alliance Committed Leader Award recognizes a leader in the community of practice who commits significant time and expertise to the many bold initiatives underway at The Alliance. Through establishing valued relationships, this leader has launched significant efforts to advance nationwide collaboration and engaged learning. By activating the “All Teach, All Learn” approach, this leader directly impacts a wide variety of relevant, targeted and scalable learning solutions in the bold pursuit to save and heal lives.

The recipient of The Alliance Committed Leader Award for 2022 is Schawnté Williams-Taylor, Vice President of Family Engagement and Donation Services for LifeGift in Houston, Texas. The award was presented by Corey Bryant, Senior Director of Communications and Strategic Initiatives for The Alliance, sharing “For many years, Schawnté has been a remarkable contributor to The Alliance, presenting on numerous learning programs and volunteering her time to share a wealth of knowledge to nurture the talents of her colleagues across the country. She also serves as a member of The Alliance National Donation Leadership Council, guiding future programs and learning opportunities for the national community.”

Kevin Myer, President and CEO of LifeGift and Alliance Board Member, congratulated Williams-Taylor, along with a host of her colleagues from LifeGift. “Schawnté has been with LifeGift since 1999. Talk about commitment – talk about a committed leader,” said Myer. “Nationally, through The Alliance, she’s helping folks learn how to take care of families in such crisis. Her impact over these years is thousands and thousands and thousands of lives.”


The Alliance Visionary Leader Award recognizes a leader in the community of practice who guides The Alliance’s vision to ignite bold advancements in organ donation, transplantation and overall patient survival. As a valued thought leader, this individual has introduced important innovations to catalyze meaningful change for donation and transplantation.

The recipient of the 2022 Alliance Visionary Leader Award is Linda Ohler, Transplant Quality Consultant and Transplant Educator for George Washington University Transplant Center. “With 30 years’ experience in transplantation, Linda has served in a variety of clinical quality roles in many leading institutions,” said Karri Hobson-Pape, Executive Director of The Alliance. “She has written and co-edited four books on transplantation for nurses, published in transplant-related articles in peer-reviewed journals, and served as Editor of Progress in Transplantation for 23 years. This year, she approached The Alliance team with a new concept, launching later this fall. Called Pioneers of Possible, this program captures information and oral histories from many of the celebrated trailblazers in transplantation and donation.”

In honor of Ohler, former colleagues Brigitte Sullivan and Tim Stevens paid tribute to their dear friend. “Each program that she is involved in showcases Linda’s unassuming and gentle way of guiding, providing input, conveying the facts and mentoring others to ultimately improve outcomes for the patients we serve,” said Stevens. “This short tribute does not do you justice, Linda, but I want to thank for all you’ve done and all you continue to do for our community. Congratulations.”

WagnerThe Alliance Transformational Leader Award is a lifetime career achievement award dedicated to the individual that is generating bold impact. This award honors a leader in the community of practice who has generated the greatest results through their volunteer efforts at The Alliance. This leader has demonstrated consistent commitment, resulting in effective collaboration, cascading of innovations and sharing of best practices for the benefit of restoring lives through transplantation.

Alliance Board Chair Dr. Ana Hands presented the second annual Alliance Transformational Leader Award to Dennis Wagner, Principal and Managing Director of Yes And Leadership. “Dennis has served our community of practice for many years and has made a lasting impact on the field,” said Hands. “He was the leader of the Breakthrough Collaboratives almost 20 years ago, which inspired the creation of the Organ Donation and Transplantation Alliance. This year, Dennis was involved on the committee for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) to develop the important report, Realizing the Promise of Equity in the Organ Transplantation System. This was a groundbreaking report that will guide many of our organizations for years to come.”

To celebrate Wagner, former colleagues Howard Nathan and Kevin O’Connor expressed their gratitude and congratulations. “The field of donation and transplantation is truly indebted to you for all of your contributions,” said Nathan. “Dennis, you taught us all about setting bold goals and making bold offers and bold requests – and we never looked back. I’ve never met a more positive ‘can-do’ person in my life, and I’m personally grateful to have worked with you, been influenced by you, and have been inspired by you.”


Finally, a special award of recognition was presented to Glenn Matsuki, Alliance Program Consultant. Matsuki, a 27-year heart recipient has worked both as a transplant administrator and at an OPO. “For the last five years, Glenn has been enormously valuable as a program consultant for The Alliance,” shared Hobson-Pape. “At the end of this year, Glenn will be retiring, through we’ll never let him go. Please join me in thanking Glenn for his many years of service to the community.”

The Alliance extends sincere congratulations and deep appreciation to these outstanding leaders and the many other volunteers that support The Alliance’s efforts throughout the year.

Special thanks to Nationwide Organ Recovery Transport Alliance (NORA) for their sponsorship of the Alliance Annual Leadership Awards Ceremony.

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