Bill Lawrence’s introduction to organ transplantation was sudden and entirely unexpected. While on a business trip in July 1988, he purchased an over-the-counter medication he had used to treat a mild, chronic condition. He took the medication at the same rate he normally did, not noticing that it was a different formulation that would build up more quickly within the liver. The medication reached a toxic level and caused his liver to fail acutely, sending him into a hepatic coma. The only option to save his life was an emergency liver transplant, which he received within a week of being listed.
He was not even aware at the time of what had happened. “When I came out of the coma and was told that I had a transplant,” he said, “I had to figure out what that meant.”
His mission to learn more about organ donation and transplantation quickly grew to include advocacy. Mr. Lawrence recently retired from UNOS after 23 years of service in various roles as a volunteer committee member and chairman, Director of Patient Affairs on the UNOS staff, and consultant to UNOS.
A constant throughout his service has been his expertise in legislative affairs. Prior to his UNOS involvement, he served as counsel on various committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and as Director of Congressional Affairs for the U.S. Customs Service. In his work with UNOS, he interacted regularly with members of Congress and their staffs to educate them about organ donation and transplantation and advocate for legislation to promote these causes. In 1997 he founded the Transplant Roundtable, a group of legislative and government affairs representatives from transplant-related organizations who meet regularly to discuss legislative issues of common interest.
Relating to his legislative acumen, he is also an invaluable expert on parliamentary procedure. He educated many OPTN/UNOS Board members and committee chairs on how to navigate complex discussion and actions in an orderly fashion.
Bill is a friend and mentor to many, especially the volunteers who represent patient, living donor, and donor family member interests on the Patient Affairs Committee and the Board of Directors. Through his encouragement and recruitment, people who have personal experiences with organ donation and transplantation have had increasing participation and influence in the direction of the OPTN.
“We congratulate Bill on his retirement,” said Brian Shepard, UNOS’ Chief Executive Officer. “We’ll miss him, and we thank him greatly for more than two decades of service to the transplant community.”