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Achieving racial equity in transplantation

Achieving racial equity in transplantation

The recent events of 2020 have shed a brutal spotlight on the issue of racism in our country and throughout the world. We have witnessed the rise of anti-Asian discrimination as fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and now, as a nation, face the extraordinary reckoning over racial injustice toward the African American community following George Floyd’s death.

As transplant providers, we are committed to saving and improving lives through transplantation, regardless of background, including race and ethnicity. In fact, equity is so central to the fundamental goals and values of our transplant community that we have it in the Final Rule, which mandates the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network ensure “the equitable allocation of cadaveric organs.”

However, we must acknowledge as a transplant community that racial disparities continue to exist in transplantation, as evidenced in several recent publications including the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, Surgery, the American Journal of Transplantation, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. The reasons for these disparities are medically and socially complex, and we must continually strive to reduce these inequities.

In developing policy, the donation and transplant community work with United Network for Organ Sharing to carefully examine the potential impact of policy changes on race and ethnicity. The OPTN Minority Affairs Committee, or MAC, is charged with ensuring that policy development and implementation uphold equitable allocation across racial groups and vulnerable populations. Each policy proposal that could potentially impact access to transplant by race is carefully vetted and debated by the MAC and part of our regulatory commitment is to provide feedback to policy-sponsoring committees to consider racial impact.

During this difficult time, we have reflected individually and as a community on how we can strive to be better and to eradicate inequity. We are committed to that end, and will continue to listen, educate, advocate for, and serve one another and our patients.

Irene K. Kim, M.D. is co-director of the Comprehensive Transplant Center, a liver and kidney transplant surgeon, and associate professor of surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She serves as chair of the Minority Affairs Committee.

Paulo Martins, M.D., Ph.D., is a liver transplant surgeon at UMass Memorial Health Care and associate professor of surgery at University of Massachusetts Medical School. He serves as vice-chair of the Minority Affairs Committee.


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