A Director of Transplant Nursing on OPOs and Student Advocacy
Updated: May 4, 2021
by Nicole Poitras, Fall 2020 Social Media & Content Intern
Here at SODA, we work with our highschool and college campus chapters and their local Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) to educate students and communities about the donation process. We love learning more about the organ donation process and the relationship between transplant centers and OPOs. To explore this side of the organ transplant process, SODA’s Social Media and Content Intern, Nicole Poitras, (virtually) sat down with Laura O’Melia, Director of Transplant Nursing at Boston Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Transplant Center.
Laura started her career as an intensive care nurse before becoming a nurse practitioner and coordinator for the Liver and Intestine Transplant Program and later transitioning to her current transplant leadership position. She has held positions in the United Network for Organ Sharing as well as the International Pediatric Transplant Association.
Laura explained that in her role, she is not directly involved with the OPOs when an organ is being donated. “I am, however, involved with the OPOs regarding follow up from organs that we decline that were transplanted at another facility...we want to learn so that the next time an organ like that comes across our path we can say ‘Hey... maybe we should take this.’” Innovations in organ transplantation continue to happen that allow for a wider variety of potential donors who were previously rejected to be considered for transplantation. For example, in recent years medical innovations have allowed people with Hepatitis C and HIV to become organ donors when they could not before.
Laura also is involved in organ donation awareness at the hospital. She and the hospital’s OPO representative are both part of a committee that prepares for Donate Life Month activities and events every year. April is Donate Life Month, and the goal is to raise awareness about organ donation and support organ donation advocacy. She said advocating for organ donation is crucial to the success of the transplant process, because without more donors, fewer and fewer people will be able to receive transplants.
“If there is not enough education, then people won’t register to be organ donors, and as a result more people will die on the waitlist,” she said. “So any advocacy that can be done, whether on the local level, through the RMV [Registry of Motor Vehicles], through high schools...it is a direct correlation.”
The role that high school and college students play in organ donation advocacy is an immensely important one. At SODA, we’re grateful for our student leaders that educate and register their peers as organ donors, and we love learning about the impact our advocacy hason transplant centers around the country!
Are you interested in starting a SODA chapter on your high school or college campus? Visit our chapters page to get all of the information you need and to fill out a chapter eligibility form!
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