January 16th: Celebrating Martin Luther King’s Legacy on Martin Luther King Day
On the third Monday of January, we celebrate Martin Luther King Day and honor the activist and Baptist pastor Martin Luther King, who, in the mid 50’s, led the movement to end racial segregation and counteract prejudice in the United States through peaceful protest, becoming an icon, marking a before and after in the history of the United States through his legendary speeches.
I HAVE A DREAM
Martin Luther King dreamed of a future where people of different races could coexist harmoniously and equally in the United States and globally. His best known march was in Washington on August 28, 1963, where he gave one of his most incredible speeches that we all know as “I Have a Dream”. His words managed to transcend borders and earned him international recognition and respect.
“Today I say to you, my friends, that despite the difficulties of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the “American” dream. I dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We affirm these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
– Martin Luther King.
From this speech, civil rights laws were proclaimed, guaranteeing the right of free suffrage to all U.S. citizens without discriminatory restrictions. Thanks to his leadership, the civil rights movement opened the doors to education and employment that had long been closed to America’s black population.
Equity and Inclusion in the Field of Organ Donation and Transplantation
The year 2022 marked the milestone of 1 million transplants performed in the United States, which makes us wonder how we will reach the next million. It is of vital importance to take into account how equity and inclusion are relevant and necessary factors to save and heal lives in communities that have not been prioritized in the past. This is why UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) continues to work hard to find solutions to increase equity, make transplantation fair and accessible to all, and prioritize the medical needs of historically underserved groups of transplant patients. New regulatory changes, coupled with ongoing research, promise fairer access to transplantation for African American kidney patients. HBCU’s are collaborating with organ procurement organizations in a pilot program to increase physician diversity in organ donation and transplantation.
A one-year follow-up report provided by UNOS this January shows an increase in kidney transplants in African-American, Hispanic, Asian and pediatric patients following regulatory changes. This report shows that kidney transplants continue to increase following the implementation of the updated allocation system, which was implemented on March 15, 2021. The new system eliminated the donation service area (DSA) and administrative regions from kidney allocation, replacing them with a 250 nautical mile circle around the donor hospital in order to increase equity in a number of key populations. This means a 16% increase in overall transplant rates following the elimination of the DSA and region.
While we know that the need for organ donation and transplantation affects all communities, data has shown that ethnic minority groups are more likely to need a life-saving organ transplant. This is partly because some diseases that can lead to organ failure, such as diabetes and hypertension, are more prevalent among diverse communities. That is why we encourage every community to participate in the Dr. Martin Luther King Commemoration by celebrating his legacy, reflecting and discussing the needs of our diverse communities.
Learning about the impact of life-saving organ and tissue donation and registering as an Organ and Tissue Donor means supporting each other as a community and spreading hope to those waiting for a transplant.