Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, Meharry Medical College president/CEO

NASHVILLE, TN — Meharry Medical College and Tennessee Donor Services (TDS) are celebrating the nation’s first TDS-Meharry program, which seeks to address disparities in organ donation and diversify the donation workforce. 

The program aims to provide medical students with foundational experiences early in their medical training to ultimately attract new talent in the industry. There are 53,000 transplant and recovery surgeons in the United States. Of those surgeons, only 5.5 percent are Black – creating a significant disparity between the race of doctors and the patients they serve. With more than 30,000 Black Americans actively on the transplant waiting list – the most of any demographic in the country – the need to remove racial and cultural barriers to donation is urgent. 

During the event on July 19, six students from the program sat down with Dr. James Hildreth to discuss their groundbreaking transplant recovery research and their hands-on experiences over the last two months in the field at TDS, including scrubbing in on recovery surgery, shadowing donor family interactions, assisting with organ allocation and donor management, and more.  

Participating were: Jill Grandas, Executive Director of TDS, Dr. James Hildreth, President and CEO of Meharry, Dr. Marty Sellers, organ recovery surgeon for TDS, Rep. Vincent Dixie, Tennessee State Representative, Meharry Medical College students, and TDS staff.

Committed to improving donation and transplantation among Black Americans, Meharry and TDS are committed to diversifying the workforce and broadening outreach to minority communities. Currently, only 5.5 percent of transplant surgeons are Black due to qualification barriers, race classification, lack of exposure to the field and representation in the industry. The TDS-Meharry program creates a direct path for minority students to pursue organ recovery and transplantation as a career while participating in research and hands-on learning opportunities.