UPMC Living Donor Champion Program and the Role of the Living Donor Ambassador

June 11, 2022

For parents and loved ones of children awaiting a liver transplant, every moment spent on the waiting list is vital. A living-donor liver transplant may be the life-saving solution to getting them off the waiting list and back to their healthiest life.

However, asking someone to become a living donor can be challenging. UPMC Living Donor Ambassador, Amy Dwyer, MSN, RN, assists parents and families in identifying a living donor to make their child’s transplant journey more manageable. She plays an important role in the UPMC Living Donor Champion program, an initiative geared toward educating parents and families about the benefits of finding a living donor. 

A living donor Champion’s role includes finding a living donor in a timely fashion so a child can avoid long wait times on the transplant waiting list. They also connect and talk with as many people as possible so that an appropriate match can be found, while also offering support and inspiration throughout the journey.

Many centers around the country only utilize Champion-related materials that parents and families can use at their discretion. At UPMC, our program goes a step further by employing a living donor ambassador to provide education and assistance throughout a child’s transplant process.

“Amy works one-on-one with parents and loved ones to help identify living donor Champions and tailors each case to meet the needs of each family,” says Dawn Wilkerson, MSN, RN, clinical manager of Transplant Services, Hepatology and Intestinal Care at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “Her dedication to help each child find a donor to begin their new life is something she is very proud of.”

By guiding parents in their search for a living donor, Dwyer helps lift the burden of trying to find someone who is willing to donate so that families can focus on their child’s health.

“We encourage parents and their families to identify a Champion who can advocate on their behalf to build a network with which to share their story,” said Dwyer.

Dwyer received her master’s degree in nursing from Duquesne University and started her career as a pediatric liver/small bowel transplant coordinator at Georgetown University Hospital. Prior to taking on the role of UPMC living donor ambassador, Dwyer was a post-transplant liver coordinator at UPMC.

Benefits of the UPMC Living Donor Champion Ambassador

Dwyer provides education on the importance of living donation as a first-line treatment option, emphasizes the different ways to find a living donor, and provides access to living donor Champion materials that can help spread the word about a child’s need for a liver transplant.

These materials include digital and non-digital resources, including social media tips and worksheets that help parents prepare to tell their child’s story.

“I believe in the benefits of living donation and encourage this conversation at every step in the transplant process,” said Dwyer.

Why UPMC?

UPMC is home to one of the only programs in the country that employ a living donor Champion ambassador. Having someone motivating and encouraging parents and families to pursue living donation for their child is crucial for timely transplantation.

“Few transplant centers in the U.S. offer Champion programs, let alone at the pediatric level,” said Dwyer. “By offering this level of support, we at UPMC can empower parents and families with the knowledge, tools and confidence needed to successfully share their child’s story in the hopes of finding the ultimate gift of life.”

Researchers at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) conducted a study and found that friends or family members often feel eager and empowered to spread awareness about their loved one’s need for a transplant.

According to the study, “comfort in initiating a conversation about transplantation increased over time for living donor Champions (LDC). Twenty-five potential donors contacted our center (NCBI) on behalf of LDC participants; four participants achieved transplant and three additional participants have donors in evaluation, compared to zero among matched controls.”

For more information on the UPMC Living Donor Champion Program, visit our website.