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Board Member Spotlight: Dr. Yolanda Becker on Organ Donation Education and Choosing ‘Happy’

Written by Yolanda Becker, MD, FACS, as told to Zoe Engels, Blog Contributor

Meet SODA National Board Member, Dr. Yolanda T. Becker, MD, FACS! Since joining the Board of Directors in 2021, Yolanda has helped SODA form national partnerships and ensures consistent funding support. She enjoys interacting with others who share a passion for organ donation education and its life-saving impact. We had the chance to ask Yolanda about her life and her experiences with SODA, and she shared some great advice with us, too. Check out the Q&A below!

What inspired you to get involved with SODA?

Sara Miller, SODA’s Founder, got in touch with me [circa 2014] when she was a student at WashU—at the very beginning of SODA—to talk about the concept and need. Her passion was infectious. Sara kept in touch over the next several years, and when I retired as Director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation at University of Chicago, I knew I would have more time to help with the mission.

Fun fact: Yolanda served as a Professor of Surgery and Director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation at University of Chicago Medicine, and she is a past Board President of the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network/United Network for Organ Sharing. She was named a Fellow of the American Society of Transplant and awarded the “Friend of Nursing Award” by the International Transplant Nurses Society in recognition of her work.

What does organ donation mean to you?

It is awe-inspiring to interact with donor families. The transformation in organ transplant recipients is truly a miracle. Without donation, none of this is possible.

What do you enjoy most about being part of SODA National’s Board of Directors?

I love seeing how many students are passionate about saving lives and wanting to make a positive impact for so many others.

Who/what inspires you?

My parents provide my base and my inspiration. With their constant support and encouragement, I have always felt an optimism about any task. My husband and children continue to inspire me to always strive to be strong, kind, and loving.

If you could give students any piece of advice, what would it be?

Asking for advice and help shows strength.

Do you have a motto or personal mantra?

From my mentor, John Tarpley, “Adversity is a constant, Misery is a choice.” I try to always choose happy.

Tell us about yourself!

I’m a huge animal lover: two dogs, two geckos, two fish, and a guinea pig… I would have more if I could. We are in Fort Worth, Texas, now, and I’m getting used to the heat. I enjoy reading murder mysteries and stories that make me laugh. I ran my first marathon last year and am currently training for the NYC marathon.

Fun Fact: Yolanda attended John Hopkins School of Medicine and completed her residency at Vanderbilt University. She subsequently completed her transplant surgery fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she joined the faculty before accepting her position as Director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation at University of Chicago Medicine. She retired from the University of Chicago in 2021 and is now a Professor of Surgery and Medical Education at Texas Christian University School of Medicine.

When you’re not working, how do you enjoy spending your free time?

Trying to get ready to run 26.2 miles 😊.

When you were a kid, what was your dream job?

I always wanted to be a doctor and have been so fortunate to see my dream come true.

What are you currently watching and/or reading?

I just finished watching Stranger Things on Netflix. I also just finished an Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot novel and State of Terror by Hillary Clinton. I’m almost done with The Rosie Project [by Graeme Simsion]. I read The New York Times Book Review every Sunday and keep a running list of books I want to read. I’m a huge fan of our public library.

Finally, do you have a fun fact about yourself that you’d like to share?

I was on the Homecoming Court at Tulane University my junior year in college.

Do Yolanda’s words resonate with you? If you’re also passionate about helping others and saving lives through organ donation advocacy and education, apply to host an event or start a chapter on your campus here.

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