Transportation, transparency and other critical issues
UNOS Interim CEO Maureen McBride recounts actions taken during her first 100 days to tackle some of transplant’s biggest challenges
About 100 days ago, I began my tenure as the new interim CEO of UNOS. In that time, I have had the honor of taking part in so many constructive conversations about community-wide efforts we could undertake to address critical issues facing the national organ donation and transplant system.
It’s hard to believe, but that was 100 days ago.
Often, 100 days is used as a barometer for an individual. But this 100-day milestone is about all of us; a thriving, bold and diverse community that continues to work together to improve the system and better serve patients. With that in mind, I would like to take a moment to share some of the progress we’ve made over the last 100 days.
It’s also important to remember who makes our work possible: generous donors and their families. Their selflessness and courage helped us reach lifesaving milestones in 2022, including a new annual record for transplants and another record for deceased donation. We will be sharing more data in the coming days, but the numbers serve as a reminder that even as we review the progress we’ve made, it pales in comparison to the gift of life given by so many this past year.
We can do better, we must do better, and we will do better. This was the collaborative theme I outlined in my speech before the OPTN Board at our meeting in St. Louis, and it has informed our collective efforts to benefit the thousands of patients who rely on us. While there’s always more work to do and challenges that remain, these important steps forward represent our shared commitment to continuously improving.
Board separation, transparency and governance improvement
For a little over a year and a half, UNOS has been working to officially separate the UNOS and OPTN boards into two distinct governing bodies to emphasize oversight and transparency and ensure public trust. This past August, the Senate Committee on Finance echoed that sentiment by recommending the same approach. Today, UNOS Board leadership sent a letter to HRSA, advancing a plan to separate the OPTN and UNOS boards and reiterating our desire to collaboratively make this proposal a reality. This will provide peace of mind to those concerned about transparency and will help ensure continued public trust in the system.
Honoring donor families by addressing organ transportation on commercial airlines
We have heard from members of this community, patients, advocates, Congress and others that something must be done to address the issue of organs transported on commercial airlines. Delays, cancellations, cargo requirements, and other issues can disrupt the transfer of donor organs to patients in need. Based on community feedback and Congressional input, UNOS Board Leadership sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, requesting a meeting to discuss substantive ways to address these issues and identify solutions that can ensure the safe transport of donor organs, honoring donors and their families and providing patients across the country with the gift of life. We’re looking forward to hearing from the Secretary.
“…this 100-day milestone is about all of us; a thriving, bold and diverse community that continues to work together to improve the system and better serve patients.”
Maureen McBride, Ph.D., Interim CEO
Collaborating with federal partners to strengthen IT security
Last year, a leaked, draft report from the U.S. Digital Service (USDS) drew significant, negative conclusions about our IT infrastructure and drove media and Congressional attention. While we have substantial concerns about some of the assumptions contained within that document, we agree with USDS on one thing: we both want to improve the national system to best serve patients and save more lives. With that in mind, UNOS Board leadership sent a letter to the USDS Administrator, inviting USDS to visit UNOS in person to conduct their very first review of our system. The letter also seeks a meeting to discuss the unpublished report. While USDS did not conduct a review prior to their report and we extended a similar offer in August, we are eager to welcome their staff and address their concerns.
Improving oversight efforts with CMS to benefit patients
Something we’ve heard from members of Congress as well as patients, community members, advocates and organizations is the need for UNOS to better coordinate its oversight efforts with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). We have heard those calls and we agree that more direct communication with CMS is a necessity. To begin this process, we recently met with Jonathan Blum, the Principal Deputy Administrator and Chief Operating Officer at CMS, to discuss opportunities for improved collaboration and oversight. A regular meeting schedule is in the works and we were heartened by the eagerness for an ongoing, open dialogue. We are hopeful that this direct engagement will have a positive impact on patients and the entire donation and transplant community.
The next 100 days
After 100 days, I am proud of what we have all worked together to do – not just based on governance enhancements, transportation improvements, technological collaborations or oversight, but in everything we do, the patients our community continues to save, the donors and families we continue to honor, the people we continue to serve and the lives we continue to change.
But the only thing that makes the first 100 days important is what we do over the next 100 to build, expand and improve. Our work never ceases, and neither do we.
I thank our patients, families, physicians, professionals, advocates, organizations and others for being a part of this community and for everything you do to benefit so many across the nation. On to the next 100 days!