Donation education for medical students: enhancing the link between physicians and procurement professionals

Christian C Essman, Daniel J Lebovitz
Progress in Transplantation 2005, 15 (2): 124-8

PURPOSE: Increasing healthcare professionals' knowledge about organ and tissue donation; the national mandates regarding referral compliance; and the effect on donors, donor families, and transplant recipients is a challenging task. Physicians not routinely involved in organ donation or transplantation are some of the most difficult professionals for organ procurement organizations to access. A course for medical students was developed to initiate the transfer of information, comfort, and familiarity with the organ and tissue donation process.

METHODS: Discussions with a local medical school revealed that little organized education on organ and tissue donation existed. An elective course was developed consisting of 2-hour lectures, once a week for 6 weeks. Topics included an overview of tissue and organ donation, history and significance of the current crisis, determination of brain death and its role in organ donation, tissue donation, pretransplant and posttransplant processes, ethical issues, and the donor family and recipient experience.

RESULTS: A thorough course proposal was presented to the medical school's Chairman of Surgery and Chairman of Transplantation. The proposal was approved for first- and second-year medical students.

CONCLUSION: Offering medical students a unique and comprehensive course may attract curious students who could become future champions for donation. This type of educational approach may significantly influence future interactions between physicians and organ procurement organizations. If more organ procurement organizations implement this type of program, the medical students' knowledge of donation will not only affect and benefit the local organ procurement organization's service area but other procurement organizations throughout the country as well.

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