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
Donor Alliance, the nonprofit organization that facilitates organ and tissue donation for transplantation in Colorado and most of Wyoming, encourages communities to participate in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration. It provides residents an opportunity to celebrate his legacy and to start the conversation about the needs of our diverse communities, which includes the lifesaving and healing gifts of organ and tissue donation. It is important to take into consideration how equity and inclusion are relevant and necessary factors to save and heal lives in communities that have not been prioritized in the past. The need for lifesaving organ transplants affects all communities regardless of race, age and sex. However, there is a far greater need for organ transplants among ethnic minority groups and, similarly, a prevalent need for more multicultural individuals to register as organ, eye and tissue donors. Nationally, almost 60% of those on the waiting list are people of color. This is partly because some diseases that can lead to organ failure, such as diabetes and hypertension, are more prevalent among diverse communities. The highest percentages of populations waiting for a transplant are Hispanic, African American and Asian/Pacific Islander. Those waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant are not matched based on race; however, transplant matches made within race groups can be even more compatible and successful. Donor Alliance remains committed to improving the quality of life of multicultural communities by creating a positive culture for organ and tissue donation.
In 2022, a milestone was reached in saving and healing lives. One million transplants were performed in the United States, which makes us wonder how we will reach the next million. 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 (Historical Black Colleges or Universities) are collaborating with organ procurement organizations on a pilot program to increase physician diversity in organ donation and transplantation.
Given these efforts, a one-year follow-up report from UNOS shows a notable increase in 2023 of lifesaving and healing organ donations and transplants, setting a new record. The dedication of the national donation and transplantation community persists, aiming to enhance the system and ensure every patient on the waiting list has an equitable chance to receive a transplant, thereby saving and healing more lives.
OPTN Board approves elimination of race-based calculation for transplant candidate listing.
In January 2023, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) began requiring kidney programs to assess their waiting lists and adjust wait times for any Black kidney candidates whose kidney function was overestimated due to use of a race-inclusive calculation. The glomerular filtration rate (GFR) measures kidney efficiency in removing creatinine from the blood, either directly or through estimated (eGFR) calculations. Some eGFR formulas include a race variable for Black individuals, potentially inaccurately suggesting higher kidney function. A recent board action mandates kidney transplant programs to identify Black candidates qualifying with race-inclusive eGFR, assess if a race-neutral eGFR would have qualified them sooner, and apply for waiting time modifications through OPTN.
The OPTN is committed to providing robust support to its members and transplant candidates by offering resource information and educational materials. To learn more, please visit the OPTN website.
While we know the need for organ donation and transplantation affects all communities, data has shown that ethnic minority groups are more likely to need a lifesaving organ transplant. Learning about the impact of lifesaving organ and tissue donation and registering as an organ and tissue donor means supporting each other as a community and providing hope to the nearly 1,300 people in our community currently waiting for a transplant. For more information, please visit DonorAlliance.org. To support your community and to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor, please visit DonateLifeColorado.org or DonateLifeWyoming.org.