Conventional wisdom has it that Latino families in the United States are less likely than average to agree to organ donation, but not so New York City – Latinos here have taken matters into their own hands. There is a high incidence in the Latino population of diseases that result in the need for organ transplant; minorities however, including Latinos, face more than their share of obstacles when it comes to receiving one. Socioeconomic factors including poverty, lack of insurance, the language barrier, and just plain lack of awareness combine to limit access of Latinos to lifesaving transplants. No wonder there is a perception in the community that the system is unfair! It is all the more remarkable, then, that last year the Latino community had the highest rate among all ethnic groups in New York of consenting to “the Gift of Life” – when asked to donate, 58% of Latino families said, “Yes!”

Throughout the country, there arefar more people who need organ transplants than there are donors to provide those organs. As a result, transplant teams are being forced to explore alternative sources, like Living Donor Liver Transplants. New York’s hospitals have led the way in developing this new field, and Latino families have figured largely in its success by their exceptional willingness to put their lives on the line in order to save a friend or relative. Our success in promoting organ donation among Latinos in New York should serve as a guiding light to the rest of the nation. Many things about the Latino culture, including close family ties and a strong connection to religion and spirituality, provide fertile ground. The most important factor in New York’s success, however, was the development of a program to approach the community about organ donation in their own language such as L. 0. L.A. Please click here for the agenda of the dinner.

Over recent years, the revolution in Information Technology has resulted in the ready accessibility of information about transplantation and organ donation. Unfortunately, very little of the available information is presented bilingually. The face of America is changing. The national transplant community needs to follow New York’s lead and develop outreach programs that approach Latinos in Spanish and respect for their unique perspective. In the Latino culture, seeing is believing. Show us that the transplant system works for us, and we’ll support it with all our hearts. This is the key to the success of L. 0. L.A. I want to congratulate the honorees and give my sincerest thanks to the corporate sponsors, transplant community, members, elected officials, staff, family and friends who made our celebration successful. My heartfelt appreciation to Gladys Moreira-Olsen, Mireya Delgado and Ivonne Sanchez for their tireless efforts.

Once again, I am deeply grateful to all for recognizing the importance of the Latino population and for your generous contributions and support of our efforts throughout the years. Most importantly thank you for your acknowledgement of our culture and heritage.


Debbie Vega

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