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U-M Transplant Center receives HHS Organ Donation Medal of Honor, joins bold initiative


Nashville – The University of Michigan Health System Transplant Center has been awarded the Organ Donation Medal of Honor from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services for its success in raising organ donation rates. This was the third consecutive year UMHS has won the Medal of Honor.
transplant award

In addition, the U-M Transplant Center has joined a new initiative, the Transplant Growth and Management Collaborative. This new Collaborative intends to dramatically increase the number of deceased donor organs transplanted at each hospital.

The U-M Transplant Center recently received the Medal of Honor and helped launch the Collaborative during the Third Annual National Learning Congress on Organ Donation and Transplantation in Nashville, Tenn. It earned the recognition by collaborating with its Gift of Life Michigan partners to achieve the national goal of converting at least 75 percent of eligible deaths into actual organ donors. Each organ and tissue donor can save the lives of up to eight people and enhance the lives of 50 more.

Dr. Punch“It is a great honor that the University of Michigan Health System has again won the HHS Medal of honor for organ donation,” said Jeffrey Punch, M.D., chief of the U-M Division of Transplantation. “I am very proud that our team has won this distinction for the third straight year"

He continues: “This past summer, our program was stunned by the loss of six members of our team in the crash of a jet bringing the team back to Michigan after recovering organs for transplantation. I dedicate this honor to our lost friends. I know they too would be proud of everyone’s efforts at the Health System that brought about this worthy distinction. We will be continuing our goal to be a leader in the world of organ donation both by setting a stellar example of best practices and also to continue to strive for improvement in everything we do.”

Lynda Harwood, Gift of Life Michigan hospital development associate for U-M, called the Medal of Honor well-deserved. “This medal symbolizes the University of Michigan’s commitment to its patients and to saving lives,” Harwood said.

Punch also said that U-M is pleased to be represented at the Transplant Growth and Management Collaborative by a team that includes clinicians as well as administration. The purpose of the initiative is to save or enhance thousands of lives a year by spreading known best practices to the nation’s largest hospitals, to achieve 35,000 deceased donor organs transplanted annually.

“We look forward to learning how our program can save even more lives in the future by applying what we learn at this event to our own program,” Punch said. “Already we have come up with new ideas and new ways of thinking about things. These collaborative programs, sponsored by HRSA, are making a difference across the country as we learn from each other how others have dealt with the challenges we all face. It has been both refreshing and inspiring to be a part of a group with such lofty goals.

The U-M Transplant Center is one of 17 Michigan medical facilities to receive the Medal of Honor for organ donation this year. Its work with Gift of Life is helping to try to close the gap in Michigan between the number of organ donors and the more than 3,200 residents in need of a life-saving organ transplant. Last year, there were a record 292 organ donors in Michigan hospitals, leading to 905 transplants.

“The work of our hospital partners is truly inspiring,” said Richard Pietroski, Gift of Life Michigan’s associate executive director. “In Michigan, more than 3,000 people need a life-saving organ transplant. They get that chance for a new life through the generosity of donors and the dedication of hospital staff like that at the University of Michigan Health System.”

Gift of Life Michigan is the state’s federally designated full-service organ and tissue recovery organization that acts as the intermediary between donors, physicians and hospital staff.

Show your Heart by signing up on the Michigan Organ Donor Registry online at, or call (800) 482-4881, and receive a donor heart sticker to place on the front of your driver’s license.

To learn more about the U-M Transplant Center, visit

Written by Tim Makinen, Gift of Life Michigan


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