University of Wisconsin–Madison

Archive: Wisconsin State Journal editorial by Dr. Anthony D’Alessandro

This editorial ran on Friday, July 30, 2010

Dear Editor: The transplant service providers at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics are proud to be leaders in treating kidney transplant patients, including minorities, at significantly higher rates than national averages.

In fact, the most recent data available show that the percentage of African-American patients who received kidney transplants over a three-year period (2004-2006) at the University of Wisconsin is more than 38 percent higher than the national average. Specifically, 43.3 percent of African-American patients on the UW’s wait list received transplants, compared to 26.8 percent nationally. In 2009, the average wait time for a kidney transplant at the hospital was about 11 months. While that will inevitably sound like a long time, it pales in comparison to the 47-month wait patients experienced nationally.

While Shawn Doherty’s article notes that the donor process is blind and anonymous, we want to stress that race is never factored into matching; however, individuals of the same ethnic or racial backgrounds are more likely to have compatible blood and tissue types, making them more likely to be matches for organ donations and transplants.

Of course, we can all do more. In many communities, there exists a level of distrust of the transplant process. It’s for that reason that the UW Organ Procurement Organization has implemented culturally relevant approaches in its interactions with families and patients. Our efforts include outreach programs to educate the community about the transplant process and benefits of donating life. In addition, with the help of a $5.2 million federal stimulus program grant, the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health is developing a program to focus on our state’s disparities in heart and lung disease, two of the most significant causes of death and disability both in the state and nationally.

The problem of health disparities is a serious concern for all of us at UW Health, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to find more solutions that will benefit our region and all of its communities.

Anthony M. D’Alessandro, M.D.

Professor of Surgery, Interim chair of the Division of Transplantation, and Medical Director of the UW Organ Procurement Organization at the University of Wisconsin-Madison