"Conversations of the Heart" Symposium to Address Organ Donation Shortages

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The demand for organ transplants in the United States continues to outpace the supply by a ratio of five-to-one.  Sadly, on the day you read this release, 21 people will die as a result of the organ shortage. 

On February 14th, representatives of the Charlotte Eye Bank, the Organ Preservation Alliance, LifeShare Of The Carolinas, Carolinas HealthCare System, and scientific researchers in the fields of biology, engineering, and public health from UNC Charlotte are coming together to explore barriers to the donor shortage.  They have purposely selected National Donor Day, which is celebrated each year on Valentine’s Day, for the event which will be held on the UNC Charlotte campus.

It marks the first time that researchers from the Charlotte Banks initiative will have an opportunity to hear first-hand from LifeShare staff, and a Carolinas Medical Center transplant surgeon, on the challenges they face as they work against the clock to save lives through organ donation.  The goal is to continue the dialogue long after the meeting is over and for this to become an annual event to celebrate National Donor Day.

In 1998, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services designated February 14th as National Donor Day to raise awareness of organ, eye, tissue, bone marrow, platelet, and blood donation.  Today, nearly 120,000 people are on the national waiting list for an organ transplant, including about 3,000 in North Carolina. 

The agenda for the day is jam-packed with noted speakers from throughout the academic and donation communities.  They include former NFL Player and Coach Sam Wyche; Anita Erwin, a nurse whose son became an organ donor; Dr. Carolina Rudisill from the London School of Economics, and Dr. Teri Brown, a professor at the University of South Carolina. To show their support, there will be also be a large presence of local transplant recipients and donor family members at the event.

The CharlotteBanks initiative at UNC Charlotte was founded by Dr. Gloria Elliott, a UNC Charlotte Professor and Associate Chair of Research in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, who is recognized for her research in the areas of thermodynamics of biological systems.  Her Symposium Co-Chair is Dr. Melinda Forthofer, Professor and Chair of Public Health Sciences at the university.  Both are focused on short- and long-term solutions to easing the donor shortage.

The Symposium will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, February 14 in the multipurpose room on the third floor on the Popp Martin Student Union Building.


LifeShare, the local organ procurement organization, is pleased to participate in this inaugural event to eliminate barriers to donation. 

Donor Statistics:

Organ transplants reached their highest number in 2016, when 33,606 transplants were reported, representing an 8.5 percent increase over the 2015 total and an increase of 19.8 percent since 2012. Despite the record number of organ donors and transplants performed last year, nearly 120,000 people remain on the national transplant waiting list.  Thousands of others are in need of donated tissue to restore sight, improve mobility, and heal burns.

How to Register as a donor:

Registering as a donor is easy.  North Carolinians can register to be organ donors when they visit their local Division of Motor Vehicles office by having a red heart placed on their driver’s license or identification card. Additionally, individuals can register online at DonateLifeNC.org/register, by sharing their decision to donate on Facebook or through the Apple Health App.

For additional information:

To learn more about the Charlotte Banks initiative, please visit www.charlottebanks.org.  For additional information on organ, eye, and tissue donation, visit the LifeShare Of The Carolinas website at www.lifesharecarolinas.org


Charlotte Banks Symposium