"LEAPing" into Minority Organ Donation Awareness

Rene Romero, M.D., Medical Director, Liver Transplant Services at Children’s, received funding for Project LEAP (The Living Donor Education and Access Program) from The Carlos and Marguerite Mason Trust. The goals of this program are:

  • To ensure that minority children have equal access to the excellent outcome afforded by living donor liver transplantation.
  • To increase awareness and understanding of living donor transplantation within Georgia’s minority population.
  • To identify on an ongoing basis the obstacles to living donor liver transplantation for pediatric recipients and to eliminate those obstacles.
  • To become the national resource for pediatric living donor transplantation by gathering data prospectively regarding living donor candidates, recipients and transplantation outcomes including survival and quality of life measures.

Why is it important to expand the number of living donor liver transplant recipients? Through current calendar year survival statistics, 100 percent of living donor liver transplant recipients at Children’s are alive, compared to 85 percent of cadaver liver recipients.

A LifeLink Foundation study shows that 27 percent of Caucasians elect to donate organs after death, but only 10 percent of African-Americans are willing to do so. In the last four years, only one of the 20 children who received a living donor liver transplant at Children’s was African-American. Yet, the number of children receiving deceased liver donations at the hospital was proportional to the state’s ethnic makeup. Roughly 29 percent of Georgia’s children are African-American, and of those patients receiving liver transplants at Children’s, 36 percent were African-American.

Through Project LEAP, Dr. Romero expects to identify some specific reasons why minority children, though undergoing liver transplants at an appropriate proportion based on the state’s population, are under-represented in living donor transplantation.