Minorities the majority on kidney transplant waiting lists

Howard University professor Clive Callender is leading a national crusade to save lives. He hopes to raise awareness in the African-American community about organ transplants and the constant need for donors. (Photo Courtesy Howard University)

WASHINGTON — At an age when many doctors are long retired, Clive Callender is leading a national crusade to save lives.

A surgeon and professor at the Howard University Medical school, Callender has devoted his life to raising awareness in the African-American community about organ transplants and the constant need for donors.

That campaign has already borne fruit, with the number of minority donors more than doubling in recent years — from 15 to 31 percent of all donors in the United States.

But that is not enough for Callender.

“The real issue is that we are disproportionately afflicted with diabetes and hypertension,” he says. “Therefore, we have more kidney disease than the majority population.”

Overall, minorities now account for 57 percent of all people waiting for transplants. But 94 percent of African-Americans and 85 percent of Hispanics on transplant lists need a new kidney.

“Yes, we are increasing our donations, but our donation rate needs to go even higher,” Callender emphasizes.

There are more than 120,000 people on transplant waiting lists, but only about 30,000 transplants are done each year.

“Twenty people die every day because of the shortage of donors, and the majority are minorities,” he says.

Callender is the founder of both the National Minority Organ/Tissue Transplant Education Program and National Donor Awareness Week, which runs from August 1-7.

For more information, visit the MOTTEP website. Would-be donors in the Washington, D.C. area can register here.

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