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The Organ Donation and Transplantation Alliance Pushes Beyond With Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives

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In response to the ongoing national reckoning against police brutality and systemic racism in the U.S., many corporations and nonprofits quickly issued statements supporting diversity. In a prioritized effort to most effectively serve its community, The Organ Donation and Transplantation Alliance is pushing beyond that with a broad set of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives to help educate and promote diverse talent at The Alliance and across the organ donation and transplantation community of practice through active recruitment, retention, mentoring, and training efforts.

“We have an opportunity to provide models for other organizations to emulate,” says Karri Hobson-Pape, executive director of The Alliance. “We’ve jumped in and are piloting several DEI projects to improve our internal team and to provide educational resources to healthcare professionals in the organ donation and transplantation community.”

“We felt strongly that we needed to take action and show a commitment to the issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion to improve our organization and the community as a whole,” says Glenn Matsuki, Alliance program consultant. “My dream is to make sure that our community of practice represents those we serve and to reduce inequities in organ donation and transplantation.”

Following suggested best practices, the initiative was led by an internal workgroup of three of the eight Alliance professional staff members, including Matsuki; Deanna Fenton, Alliance program manager; and Valinda Jones, Alliance program consultant. After extensive benchmarking research, the group developed definitions of diversity, equity and inclusion that have been approved by The Alliance board of directors. “What surprised us was that people did not have a clear knowledge of all of the vast dimensions of diversity, such as veteran status,” says Matsuki. “We’ve also been having an intense and ongoing discussion about the nuances between equality and equity.”

The internal workgroup conducted a survey that resulted in responses from at least 75 organ donation and transplantation professionals at hospitals, organ procurement organizations, and transplant centers. “The consensus of the survey results was that diversity, equity and inclusion is a critical area that needs attention in our community,” says Fenton, who led the survey project. “The survey also helped identify members of the community who expressed interest in joining our internal workgroup.”

The DEI workgroup now comprises 10 leading professionals from the field, including

Building on the groundwork of definitions, surveys and workgroups, DEI programs getting off the ground include:

  • Conversation SeriesSessions spotlighting diversity, equity and inclusion effective practices within the donation and transplantation community have been added to The Alliance’s existing conversation series. “In the survey, we heard that the community felt they would benefit from DEI conversations that force people to become comfortable with the uncomfortable,” says Fenton. The first DEI conversation on “Embracing Cultural Differences through Cultural Humility” was held on May 12th.
  • Mentorship Program ­– The existing mentorship program has been expanded to assist in mentoring diverse professionals with the addition of discussion topics that tackle DEI-specific issues such as mitigating unconscious bias, cross-cultural collaboration, and cross-cultural intelligence. “We really want to help facilitate personal and professional development in these critical areas,” says Fenton. “And that’s essentially the overarching focus of our DEI initiative.”
  • Community Resource Toolbox—Diversity-focused materials have been added to the online library of more than 800 curated donation and transplantation-based tools to develop and sustain high-performing operations.
  • Public Profile form—The Alliance’s public profile form has been updated with preferred pronouns and the capability to record the pronunciation of a member’s name.

Plans are also being developed for additional growth of The Alliance’s DEI initiatives, including the addition of tools and resources for the community, an expansion of the Advancement Learning Series to include DEI-focused topics, the addition of diverse leaders to serve on Alliance National Leadership Councils, workgroups, and committees.

“Our hope is that our work helps organizations and individuals take a hard look at their current DEI initiatives to identify improvement strategies and promote positive changes to their programs through recruitment, hiring, training, mentoring, and retention practices that foster a diversified workforce,” says Matsuki. 

“For me, personally, it was very important for us to make DEI a priority,” says Fenton. “As a community, we serve diverse populations but don’t always feel comfortable talking to them because we don’t always understand their perspectives. In light of everything that has transpired, it’s time for us to be more intentional with our approach to these conversations. At The Alliance, we can do our part to support the community at large and support the diverse groups that need our help.”

The Organ Donation and Transplantation Alliance (“The Alliance”) unites the organ donation, transplantation and healthcare communities to promote collaboration, cascade innovations and share effective practices for the benefit of restoring lives through transplantation. The Alliance activates the “All Teach, All Learn” approach by exchanging collective expertise across the healthcare continuum and by developing relevant, targeted and scalable learning solutions, in the bold pursuit to save and heal lives. 

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