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News | Nov. 2, 2023

Walter Reed Hosts Transplant Summit to Foster Greater Collaboration Among Health Care Providers Domestically and Internationally

By James Black, WRNMMC, Office of Command Communications

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center hosted a transplant summit featuring surgeons from the Defense Health Agency community, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), and the private sector, all sharing insights on saving more lives by creating a larger network of potential organ donors.

Walter Reed and Uniformed Services University’s Graduate Medical Education Program

U.S. Army Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Jamie Diaz, the chief of the Organ Transplant Service at Walter Reed, welcomed the in-person and virtual summit attendees. Following Diaz’s opening remarks, retired U.S. Navy Capt. Eric Elster (Dr.), the dean of the Uniformed Services University’s (USU) F. Edward Herbert School of Medicine, spoke about the partnership between Walter Reed and USU in providing military physicians with didactic and clinical education.

According to Diaz, Walter Reed performs about 50 kidney transplants annually, with the capacity to perform up to 80 surgeries annually. Walter Reed’s Organ Transplant Service is ranked in the top tier of all U.S. transplant programs and has a 98-percent one-year patient and graph survival rate.

In addition, Walter Reed has a 5-star rated program, according to data published by the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR).

Walter Reed’s Transplant Service: Better Care and Better Outcomes for VA Patients

Jeanie Fridley, a Department of Defense (DoD) program manager and a VA Capitol (Health Care Network liaison), and Shariff McGee – the program director for Walter Reed’s Organ Transplant Service – spoke about partnerships between the DoD and VA enhancing patient options, part of a collaborative effort to improve outcomes for VA members: permitting greater access to DHA facilities and expediting the organ pairing process.

A Transplant Recipient’s Epic Journey

Retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Douglas Jordan shared his daunting medical journey after learning that he had liver disease, which contributed to the failure of one of his kidneys. Jordan underwent twice monthly paracentesis – or abdominal taps – to remove the buildup of harmful fluids. After suffering from a temporary loss of memory on an unplanned drive to Virginia, Jordan wandered aimlessly in Richmond for a week before a bystander recognized him from a television missing person alert and contacted authorities.

After undergoing one liver and two kidney transplants in less than a year, Jordan regained his heath in 2013, becoming a national advocate for restructuring the organ transplant system by creating a “pay it forward” model that encourages nationwide organ donation and network sharing similar to the American Red Cross’s year-round blood drives.

The Department of Defense Military Share Program (MSP)

USU medical school dean Elster and Dr. Michael A. Rees, founder of the Alliance for Paired Kidney Foundation, championed the MSP.

Walter Reed participates in the MSP, which means that if a family member dies and the family directs one of the kidneys to be given to the U.S. military, that kidney may be transplanted into a patient here or utilized in the Baltimore VA Vision Program as part of its partnership with Walter Reed.

Rees, an advocate for more significant organ donation sharing domestically and internationally, would like to see the MSP become a national health care model to improve outcomes for patients within the DoD community and in the private sector.

To learn more about Walter Reed’s transplant services, please visit this link:
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