The F.M. Kirby Foundation of Morristown, New Jersey, has given United Network for Organ Sharing $75,000 to help train clinicians in promoting organ donation and increase the number of organ transplants during the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 had been impacting transplants, with the number of transplants nearly cut in half from spring 2019. However, after a monthlong decline in transplants performed each week in the U.S., transplants nationwide began to gradually increase in mid-April and have now leveled off to where they were before the pandemic, as hospitals, transplant programs and organ procurement organizations, or OPOs, adjust to the ever-changing environment.
Support of UNOS from the F.M. Kirby Foundation dates to 1998. President S. Dillard Kirby says his father, Fred M. Kirby II, felt private philanthropy should play a vital role in meeting demand for organ donations. In 2000, the Kirby Foundation awarded UNOS a $2.5 million grant to help fund the building of UNOS’ headquarters in Richmond, Virginia.
“After the capital project was complete, we focused our support in terms of professional development for doctors and nurses in soliciting and securing donations,” S. Dillard Kirby said. “Now with UNOS Labs, we see data, technology and human expertise together is the key toward advancement.”
Giving to UNOS means investing in programs focused on solutions aimed at making the system better and more effective, so more lives are saved. Financial supporters can choose to give to the National Donor Memorial, UNOS LabsSM, or help fund the free educational materials patients and their families use to help navigate the complexities of transplant. The grant from the Kirby Foundation helps support projects within the UNOS Labs portfolio.
UNOS Labs is an experimental incubator that brings together data, technology, and industry expertise to discover and eliminate barriers to organ donation and transplantation. Projects funded by private philanthropy include a partnership with the American Society of Transplant Surgeons that measures physicians’ attitudes and perceptions around predictive analytics, and a partnership with OPOs and their contracted courier services to collect data related to organ transportation.
“We are challenging ourselves to think more broadly about the technologies we could bring to the transplant system,” said UNOS Labs program manager Casey Humphries. “Grants make this research happen.”