Precious McCowan, M.S., discussed her advocacy for donation and transplantation and her involvement as an OPTN committee volunteer, and the value that people with personal experience as transplant recipient and donor family members bring to the policy-making process.
To learn more about OPTN volunteer opportunities, visit the Get Involved page.
What experiences have you had with donation and transplantation?
I am a two-time kidney transplant recipient. I received my first kidney and pancreas transplant in 2010. Unfortunately, both organs only survived for seven months. So I returned to hemodialysis for nine years until I received my second kidney transplant in 2019.
Not only am I a kidney transplant recipient, I am a donor family member as well. My two-year-old son passed away unexpectedly. My husband and I decided to donate his organs to be a blessing to others, so that they may have a second chance at a better quality of life.
How have you volunteered?
I’ve been an end-stage renal disease patient advocate since 2015. My volunteer service with the OPTN began in 2020 when I became a member at large for the Kidney Transplantation Committee. I am also honored to take part in the eGFR workgroup.
What has it meant for you?
This has been a learning and teachable experience, because I get the opportunity to collaborate and engage with a diverse group of providers and professionals that all have the same goals as me – to amplify the transplant patient experience and assure that patients have access to transplantation and exceptional care. Regardless of a patient’s ethnicity or beliefs or ZIP code, this group assures that each patient is aware of their options and that they have access to better care.
I don’t have a medical professional background, but my experience has helped me. I think it is critical for individuals like myself who are not clinicians or healthcare providers to volunteer for an OPTN committee. I strongly believe that an organization delivers at its best when its members are diverse. Diversity helps to build upon inclusion and health equity to improve the healthcare system.
What do you want others to know about volunteering?
Getting involved makes a difference. When you get involved, have an open mind and understand that we are all unique. However, we all come together to advocate on our behalf and the behalf of other patients that are challenged with their health. I’ve learned that lived experience is the best teacher and that providers are willing to listen.