Maryland Medical Center Reduces Wait
For Blacks in Need of Kidney Transplant
The time Black patients must wait for a kidney transplant at the University of Maryland Medical Center is half the national average, thanks to a highly promoted living donor program, hospital officials say.
Black patients wait an average of 681 days for a kidney transplant at the Baltimore hospital, compared with an average 1,335-day wait nationwide for Black patients, says transplant surgeon Clarence Foster III.
Foster presented the data at a conference of the American Surgical Association in Hot Springs, Va., last month. He credited promotion of the living donor concept in the Black community. Living donors often donate an organ to a family member or close friend.
“The African American community is not often aware that they can be living donors,” Foster says. “We’re willing to go out and seek potential donors in their own families.”
Nationwide, kidney failure is more common among Blacks, but donors in the Black community are more scarce. While Blacks can receive kidneys from donors of all races, they are more likely to find a suitable match from donors of the same race, Foster says. That’s because donors and recipients are matched not only by blood type, but also by proteins lying on cell surfaces that tend to be similar within ethnic groups, Foster says.
Despite the recent strides, Black patients at the hospital still wait longer for kidney transplants than patients of other races at the hospital, whose average wait is 391 days. Nationwide, non-Black patients wait an average of 734 days for a transplant.
Joseph Morton, a Black accountant from Columbia, Md., and board member for the Maryland’s Transplant Resource Center, says he received a kidney from his sister at the University of Maryland Medical Center in 1996 after a failed transplant four months earlier.
“This is a longstanding issue for me,” says Morton, whose wife died from kidney transplant complications in 1990. “I’ve had a lot of friends have to face this down.”
Morton says the lack of education about living donors is not necessarily a Black issue.
“People tell me that the (Black) community in a general sense is more suspicious, but in an individual sense they’re willing to listen,” he says. “We’re not just talking about issues of race, we’re talking about issues of economic class.”
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