AST Announces New Living Donor Circle of Excellence Program

Wednesday, October 7, 2020


The American Society of Transplantation Announces New Living Donor Circle of Excellence Program

Fourteen large employers join Circle of Excellence to increase living organ donation

MOUNT LAUREL, NJ (Oct. 7, 2020) – The American Society of Transplantation (AST) is proud to announce its new Living Donor Circle of Excellence program. “The Circle” celebrates employers who implement internal policies that provide salary support to their employees who choose to be a living organ donor.

Today, more than 100,000 patients are waiting for a life-saving kidney or liver transplant. Of the transplants performed in 2019, living donors accounted for 30% of kidney transplants and 6% of liver transplants. Financial disincentives are a barrier for many potential living organ donors. Living organ donation typically includes a four- to six-week recovery period and many will use their vacation time or take unpaid absences during this period to donate.

“With fewer than four living donors per 100,000 employed persons, most companies will only rarely support a donor. However, by simply putting a paid leave policy in place, companies demonstrate their support of the unique and critical role that living organ donation plays in our society,” said AST President-Elect, John Gill, MD. “It’s a difficult time and the need to support living donors has never been greater, which is why I hope companies take the step to join the Circle, even if they have never heard of living organ donation.”

Ann Rayburn is among the many donors who inspired the creation of the Circle. While employed with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Ann learned her lifelong friend, Tess, needed a kidney transplant within a year or she would face years on dialysis, or even death. Ann volunteered to be her living donor and in June of 2016, donated one of her kidneys to Tess. During the process, Ann spoke with a colleague, Margaret, about having to take her own saved paid time off for the procedure. Being a kidney transplant recipient herself, Margaret began to advocate for Ann, requesting UAB’s short-term disability policy be amended to include living donors. Margaret and Ann, along with past AST President, Robert Gaston, MD, championed the implementation which was adopted in 2017. Read the entire story here.

The Circle encourages other employers to follow UAB’s example to enable many more heroes like Ann to help others in need of life-saving transplants.

“The Living Donor Circle of Excellence establishes the AST at the forefront of advocating for the wellbeing of living donors,” explained AST President, Richard N. Formica Jr., MD, FAST. A program initially slated to launch in the United States, will also be promoted in Canada through the Canadian Society of Transplantation (CST). Dr. Formica shared, “We are hoping this program expands globally as we work with CST to engage companies across North America.”

“Living donors make tremendous sacrifices to help save and enhance the lives of others. The Living Donor Circle of Excellence Program exemplifies the Canadian Society of Transplantation’s mission to improve the lives of Canadian transplant patients by encouraging organizations to help reduce the financial burdens of living donors and their families,” said Canadian Society of Transplantation (CST) president, Joseph Kim, PhD.

The AST has a long history advocating for living donation. The society worked closely with the Clinton Administration and former Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) among other House and Senate leaders to enact legislation to provide employees of the federal government up to 30 days of paid leave for organ donation (5 U.S.C. 6327). The AST also continues to advocate for the Living Donor Protection Act, (S. 511 and H.R. 1224) aimed to prohibit discrimination based on an individual's status as a living organ donor in the offering, issuance, cancellation, coverage, price, or any other condition of a life-insurance policy, disability-insurance policy, or long-term-care insurance policy.

The AST is proud to work with United Health Group (UHG) as the founding member of the Living Donor Circle of Excellence. UHG developed a first-of-its-kind program designed to support employees and boost the critically low number of live-organ transplants. The HERO Program™ (Helping Employees Receive Organs) addresses critical barriers to living donation by providing up to $12,000 in financial support, both in lost wages and travel and lodging, to individuals outside UnitedHealth Group who donate a kidney, liver or bone marrow to a company employee or family member enrolled in an eligible employer-sponsored medical plan*.

Joining UHG and CST are twelve additional organizations that have signed on as Circle members, demonstrating their commitment to providing paid leave to a living donor employee, including: Alexion, Aquatic Informatics, CareDx, Eurofins, Hansa Biopharma, Kinross Gold, LifeGift , Natera, Paladin, Sanofi, UAB Medicine, and Veloxis.

To learn more about the AST Living Donor Circle of Excellence program, visit:

*Employees enrolled in the following medical plans are eligible for The HERO Program: HSA-eligible plan, Accountable Care Plan, Doctors Plan, Hawaii PPO, Kelsey-Seybold Primary Care Plan, M Health Fairview Primary Care Plan or WellMed, 1st Tier.