Health Care Professionals Gather for the Second Annual Hispanic Transplant Symposium


By Britni Riley | September 28, 2017

The Second Annual Texas Medical Center Hispanic Transplant Symposium on Sept. 26 drew doctors, nurses, researchers, clinicians, dieticians, organ donation and transplantation professionals and patients to discuss the challenges facing the Hispanic population in the United States when it comes to receiving care for end-stage organ disease.

“Forty percent of people on the waiting list in Texas identify themselves as Hispanic,” said Mark Hobeika, M.D., a transplant surgeon at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and the symposium chair and master of ceremonies. “We, as members of the organ donation and transplant community, should be at the forefront of providing culturally appropriate care for the Hispanic population.”

In addition to being genetically predisposed to developing end-stage renal disease, Hispanics also face other issues that keep them from receiving appropriate medical care, according to keynote speaker, Sylvia E. Rosas, M.D., a nephrologist and director of the Latino Kidney Clinic at Joslin Diabetes Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“Minorities take longer, A) to be referred to a doctor and, B) to do the work-up,” Rosas said. “It could be they don’t have insurance. They may not have access to transportation, can’t take off work. They may not believe in getting a transplant.”

Rosas has worked closely with the Kidney Allocation System (KAS) to even out the playing field for minorities waiting on life-saving kidney transplants.

“Before KAS, the time on the waiting list was done after you were waitlisted for an organ,” Rosas said. “Now with KAS, the time that you are put on the list starts when you start dialysis,” Rosas said. “Traditionally, minorities took longer to get waitlisted. For example, it took them two or three years on dialysis plus the four or five years it takes to get an organ transplant versus whites who may have been listed even before they needed dialysis. The KAS system makes it so the start of dialysis is the start of the list for everyone now.”

But it is not just genetics and logistics that keep the Hispanic population from receiving the medical care they need. Many speakers at the symposium noted that organ donation and transplantation go against fundamental beliefs of some members of the community.

With the second-largest Hispanic population in the United States, Houston health care professionals agree that a culturally-sensitive approach to working with the Hispanic population will be essential in moving forward with lowering rates of end-stage organ disease.

“This gives those of us in the organ donation and transplantation community an opportunity to work on a huge problem that we have, which is to get more patients transplants within the Hispanic community,” said LifeGift president and CEO, Kevin Myer. “There are social, cultural, financial and access challenges and by having this symposium together, we can narrow those down. Hopefully, the sharing of knowledge will allow us to be more effective in increasing donation and transplantation within the Hispanic community in Houston and across the U.S.”

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