St. Luke's University Health Network

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Gift of Life Donor Program Bestowed Medal of Honor

Gift of Life Honors St. Luke's for High Organ Donation Rate

The Gift of Life Donor Program presented St. Luke's Hospital - Bethlehem Campus with a 2007 Medal of Honor from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This is the third year in a row (2005, 2006, 2007) that St. Luke’s has been honored with this award.

The national Medal of Honor recognizes St. Luke's for achieving an organ donation rate of 75 percent or greater during a 12-month period. St. Luke's is among only three percent of the nation's hospitals that have achieved this goal.

Gift of Life also honored St. Luke's for showing exemplary leadership and commitment to organ donors, donor families and patients on the national transplant waiting list. According to Gift of Life, 5,500 people in this region are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant.

According to Joel Fagerstrom, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, St. Luke's Hospital & Health Network, "St. Luke's is proud to participate in a program where lives are saved by organ donors and families. Since January 2007, in the face of tragedy and death, 22 families at St. Luke's Hospital generously said 'yes' to organ donation. Although everyone should consider themselves to be organ and tissue donors, the opportunity is rare. We are grateful for the generosity of families, and also for the dedicated staff who provide care and support for families through these difficult times."

The award presentation is part of the awareness activities undertaken in the month of April, which is National Donate Life Month. The month recognizes the critical need for organ and tissue donation, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Saving lives is a year-long endeavor, according to Richard Hasz, Vice President of Clinical Services, Gift of Life. "The Gift of Life Donor Program - the nonprofit organ procurement organization (OPO) for eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware - works diligently every day throughout the year to provide a second chance to those awaiting a life-saving organ transplant. Public and professional education efforts highlighting the importance of organ and tissue donation are crucial in supporting this endeavor," Hasz said.

The month also is dedicated to recognizing the generosity of organ and tissue donors, their families, transplant recipients and the health care professionals who enable the gift of hope through donation and transplantation, said Hasz.

The Gift of Life Donor Program suggests discussing organ and tissue donation ways among families and friends to promote awareness. Let them know of your decision to become a donor, or even just take two minutes register online. In Pennsylvania, residents can log on directly to the Department of Transportation web site at www.donatelife-pa.org to sign up as a donor.

New Jersey residents can make their decision known when they renew their driver's licenses. More information may be obtained on the Donate Life New Jersey Web site, www.donatelifenj.org.

"Since its start in 1974, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 26,000 organ transplants and hundreds of thousands of tissue transplants. It has been a remarkable achievement to be one of the nation's leaders in transplantation, helped greatly by the exceptional generosity of the thousands of donors and donor families," said Hasz. "This success also is due to the longstanding relationships with our hospital partners who have committed to making organ donation a priority."

"But the work is far from over," he continued. "Even though thousands of people have provided the gift of life through a commitment to organ donation, a tremendous need still exists. In the U.S., there are more than 100,000 people awaiting life-saving organ transplants, and each day 18 of those people die waiting for their opportunity. This makes it imperative to get the word out and encourage people to make a decision about donation."

For more information on organ and tissue donation, please call the Gift of Life at 800-DONORS1 or visit www.donors1.org.

Fast Facts from Gift of Life

  • The HRSA Medal of Honor was established to recognize hospitals that achieved a 75% or more conversion rate for at least one 12-month rolling period of time during the 26 month award period ending in June 2007.
  • Criteria for eligibility included hospitals with 8 or more potential organ donors per year.
  • There were 392 winning hospitals that came from a pool of 716 hospitals that met eligibility criteria.
  • During the third National Learning Congress held in Nashville, Tenn. on October 9-10, St. Luke's Hospital was one of 20 hospitals from Gift of Life's region to be recognized for excellence in family care and outstanding rates of organ donation.
  • 12 of the 20 local hospitals received special recognition for achieving a 75-percent rate for three consecutive years.