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U-M program director takes organ donation to heart


Secretary Land honors Mark Gravel, R.N., with award for his efforts.

ANN ARBOR, MI –Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land today honored Mark Gravel, R.N., director of donation initiatives for the University of Michigan’s Transplant Center, with a Shining Star award for his outstanding work in promoting organ and tissue donation.

Land created the Shining Star award to recognize those whose exceptional efforts encourage greater organ donor awareness.

“Mark is an example of an individual whose job is his vocation,” Land says. “Organ and tissue donation is truly the gift of life for someone who is critically ill and waiting for a lifesaving transplant. Mark’s passion is to ensure that each patient has the best chance possible for a healthy life – and that means the continued promotion of organ donation to medical personnel, patients and the public.

“It is particularly telling that Mark is noted by his colleagues as one who ‘takes his job to heart’ and is highly deserving of a Shining Star.”

Committed to the cause of organ and tissue donation every minute of the day, Gravel’s dedication has placed the University of Michigan Health System in the limelight as one of three hospitals nationally with exceptional organ donation achievements.

Gravel, who is a registered nurse and a certified procurement transplant coordinator, has worked diligently to educate hospital staff about the importance of organ and tissue donation. He keeps himself available as a resource for staff to ensure that organ donation is portrayed to families in a positive light. As a result, donation is supported nearly universally among hospital personnel.

Gravel was instrumental in changing hospital policy to allow families to donate their loved ones’ organs at the point of cardiac death once all measures to save the patient’s life were exhausted. Prior to Gravel’s efforts, numerous families had approached U-M hospital staff requesting to donate organs but were denied because hospital policy only allowed organ donation at the point of brain death.

Patients who died when their hearts stopped were ineligible to donate, much to the disappointment of their families. Gravel wrote new hospital policy, which was adopted by the hospital leadership. As a result, several dozen donations at U-M hospitals have been made possible that otherwise would not have been considered.

The success of Gravel’s initiative has sparked similar donation programs at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids and other hospitals around the state. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has subsequently issued guidelines imploring other hospitals to adopt similar policies. Gravel, his wife and three children live in Dexter. He has worked for the U-M Health System since 1990.

Jeffrey Punch, M.D., director of the Transplantation Division at the U-M Health System and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, nominated Gravel for the award.

“I can’t say enough about Mark’s effort and quality of work,” Punch says. “I think one of Mark’s best assets is his personality. His ability to get along with everyone really enables him to be an effective advocate for donation.”

The Shining Star award is the latest organ donor initiative undertaken by the Department of State. The department also has a primary role in collecting names for Michigan’s organ, tissue and eye donor registry through its online enrollment program at Donor cards are also available in branch offices and are mailed with driver’s licenses and state identification cards.

Other organ donor programs supported by the department include Buddy Week, an event held each April in which Gift of Life Michigan and Michigan Eye-Bank volunteers meet with the public to discuss organ donation at Secretary of State branch offices. Land also encourages continued organ and tissue donor awareness through her Organ and Tissue Donor Advisory Committee and by fostering active partnerships with donor advocates statewide.

For more information about the Shining Star award and other Department of State organ donor programs, visit

To learn more about the U-M Health System Transplant Center and its organ donation initiatives, visit

Written by Kelly Chesney
(517) 373-2520


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