Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network honored 14 individuals, hospitals and health systems for outstanding achievements in addressing the critical need for organ and tissue donation in 2018 by presenting each with a Lifesaving Partners Award at a special recognition ceremony held on Oct. 12 in Oak Brook, Ill. This year’s Lifesaving Partners represent organ and tissue donation champions who went above and beyond to help make organ and tissue donation possible for donors and their families.

“Our Lifesaving Partners Awards honor the ‘best of the best’ in organ and tissue donation,” said Kevin Cmunt, Gift of Hope’s President/CEO. “These dedicated individuals and organizations help offer the donation opportunity to grieving families. Through their remarkable contributions they offer a beacon of light and enduring benefits to families who have suffered devastating losses, to those who have received the gift of donation and to thousands more who wait for that gift every day.”

The Lifesaving Partners Award was established by Gift of Hope in 2001 to acknowledge the vital role its partners play in helping the organization realize its vision: that every opportunity for organ and tissue donation is successful. Over the past 17 years, the organization has awarded the Lifesaving Partners distinction to more than 250 individuals and organizations. Award recipients are nominated by Gift of Hope staff and selected by a review committee from Gift of Hope.

Gift of Hope’s 2018 Lifesaving Partners Award Honorees

Leslie Barna

Stroke Coordinator, Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center, Joliet, Ill.

Since 2012, with Leslie Barna’s dedicated support, Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center has seen a 105 percent increase in organ referrals, a 117 percent increase in organ approaches and a 150 percent increase in organ authorizations. In 2017, the medical center was one of Gift of Hope’s top five donor hospitals among its 180 hospital partners. None of this would have been possible without Leslie’s hard work, dedication and support.4

Jared Bernard, MD

Trauma Surgeon, HSHS St. John’s Hospital, Springfield, Ill.

Dr. Jared Bernard consistently demonstrates a deep commitment to every donation case in which he is involved. He understands the enduring benefits donation offers grieving families and the many lives that can be saved and enhanced through the gift of donation. Always generous with his time, expertise and guidance, he goes above and beyond to make sure every case — no matter how difficult — goes smoothly from beginning to end to ensure a successful outcome.

Julie Fitzgerald, MD

Loyola University Medical Center, Chicago

In November 2017, Dr. Julie Fitzgerald organized and led Gift of Hope’s first Pediatric Brain Death Symposium. She also helped to create the Crucial Conversations and Pediatric Brain Death Educational training videos, which are now used at many hospitals in Gift of Hope’s donation service area. She is a member of the Donation Committee at Loyola and speaks on donation at the many other committees she chairs. Dr. Fitzgerald has worked tirelessly to change and improve protocols and policies and to cultivate a positive donation culture at Loyola University Medical Center.

Chaim Garfinkel

Director of Information Security and Technology Infrastructure, UI Health, Chicago

Unencumbered access to electronic medical records is essential to a streamlined donation process. Chaim Garfinkel recognized a major opportunity to adjust the EMR system at UI Health and championed changes to improve access for Gift of Hope’s clinical staff. Having this access accommodates the variability of Gift of Hope’s work with hospital partners and allows clinical staff to spend more time focusing on donors and donor families.

Jenn Grage

Medical Student, UI Health , CHICAGO

Jenn Grage is a third-year medical student at UI Health and an organ and tissue donation advocate. Gift of Hope worked closely with Jenn to plan a kickoff presentation followed by three consecutive weekly campus donor registration drives. More than 200 medical students, respiratory therapy students, nursing students, faculty and hospital staff members attended the educational event.

Jimmy Moss, MD

Critical Care Unit Intensivist, Carle Foundation Hospital, Urbana, Ill.

In early June 2018, Dr. Jimmy Moss proved vital to the successful donation outcome of a woman in her late 40s. She was in the Illinois Organ/ Tissue Donor Registry, and her family and loved ones wanted to honor her wishes to donate, but circumstances changed when she became medically unstable. Thanks to Dr. Moss’ support and dedication on this case, the donor’s and family members’ wishes were eventually honored, and the donor saved three lives.

 Organ and Tissue Donation Steering Committee

OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, Peoria, Ill.

In the past year, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center’s Organ and Tissue Donation Steering Committee has developed, implemented and led several initiatives to instill a positive donation culture at the facility and to educate clinical staff members about organ and tissue donation. Additionally, this committee granted Gift of Hope access to lifeIMAGE, an image-sharing platform used throughout OSF HealthCare, to expedite the delivery of images needed in donation cases. This best practice has been adopted by several other hospitals and systems in Gift of Hope’s donation service area.

Peoria County Coroner’s Office

Coordinating donation has many moving parts, and the Peoria County Coroner’s Office’s support and approach to donation cases helps make even the most difficult ones successful. The team members there have a collective passion for offering hope to families through the donation opportunity, and that is most evident in their open and efficient communication and collaboration — always going above and beyond to make donation happen.

Don Rowley

Transplant Recipient and Gift of Hope Ambassadors for Hope Volunteer

Don Rowley is a two-time cornea transplant recipient. He received the gift of sight in 1999 from two different donors and since then has made it his mission to honor the generous decisions of those who save and enhance the lives of others through the gift of donation. In 2005, Don became a Gift of Hope Ambassadors for Hope volunteer and has used his free time to share his story and inform and educate others on the benefits of organ and tissue donation. A true go-getter, Don speaks at more than 20 schools a year and is always invited to return.

Michelle Ruther, RN

Clinical Consultant, Clinical Effectiveness, Advocate Aurora Health, Downers Grove, Ill.

Michelle Ruther (left) successfully streamlined more than 60 organ and tissue donation policies into one systemwide brain-death policy and implemented improved electronic medical record access system-wide. In early 2018, Michelle helped to develop bridging language and support the implementation of Crucial Conversations staff training videos on adult and pediatric donation. These tools are used to educate clinical staff on best practices for speaking with families in end-of-life situations and, ultimately, transitioning that conversation to Gift of Hope to offer the donation opportunity.

Theresa Shea

Donor in Spirit Mother

Theresa Shea is an attorney, educator ,public speaker and donation advocate, but, most importantly, she is a mother. Her son, Aidan, became what Gift of Hope calls a “donor in spirit” —someone who is unable to become a donor but who has a direct, positive impact on the experiences of future donors and their families. Aidan’s story and the Shea family’s journey became the catalyst for change that recommitted Gift of Hope to pediatric donation. Theresa’s message is simple and heartfelt: Every family should be provided with the opportunity to make an informed decision about whether donation is right for them. With this message, Theresa — through Aidan’s spirit — has become a powerful advocate for future donor families.

Andy Trosper

Transplant Recipient, Gift of Hope Ambassadors for Hope Volunteer

Andy Trosper is a Gift of Hope Ambassadors for Hope volunteer who works tirelessly to support Gift of Hope’s mission and vision. Andy generously offers his personal free time to attend and participate in many donation education events held at various hospitals throughout the year, some of which can be more than 70 miles from his home. This year during National Donate Life Month in April, Andy met over 130 people to help Gift of Hope increase awareness about the importance and significance of donation.

Lauri Umbarger

Donor Mother, Gift of Hope Ambassadors for Hope Volunteer

Lauri Umbarger is a donor mother and a Gift of Hope Ambassadors for Hope volunteer. She has made it her mission to educate others on the significance and benefits of donation and on the importance of registering to become donors and sharing those decisions with loved ones. Lauri has volunteered at many donor registration booths and has made impactful and lasting contributions by speaking at numerous Gift of Hope events. Additionally, she has reached thousands by sharing the story of her son, Brandon, who saved four lives as an organ donor, with local media.

Ashley Wrigley

Sepsis Clinical Coordinator, Decatur Memorial Hospital, Decatur, Ill.

After a particularly complex case involving a family that objected to honoring their loved one’s documented decision to be a donor, Ashley Wrigley worked to help foster a supportive and collaborative relationship between Decatur Memorial Hospital and Gift of Hope. Ashley helped spearhead an initiative to drive additional awareness about organ and tissue donation in the Decatur area and helped reinstate the hospital’s Donation Committee, which she co-chairs.