Innovative approach nets MFDA chief Champion Award From Gift of Life Michigan

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‘It’s really part of our mission, too,’ says executive director

Seven years ago, funeral directors across the state got together with representatives from Gift of Life Michigan to discuss challenges and improve their working relationship. Phil Douma, executive director of the Michigan Funeral Home Directors Association

It was evident from that discussion with the Michigan Funeral Directors Association that there was a lot of frustration and misunderstanding, but there was some common ground, too.

“Our organization is about serving the needs of grieving families across the state,” said Phil Douma, executive director of the MFDA. “When those needs entail organ and tissue donation, that’s really part of our mission, too.”

Since then, through his leadership of the MFDA, he has worked to bring Organ Procurement Organizations like Gift of Life Michigan and the funeral services community together to overcome obstacles, better serve families, and offer the hope and legacy of organ and tissue donation to more people.

The lynch pin of that effort was a Donation Work Group established by the MFDA that allowed Gift of Life and the funeral service community to better collaborate on their problems and improve their services, overall.

“It’s been very successful in solving common problems, creating better standards and better serving both the funeral service and donation communities,” Douma said. “When we work together, both sides succeed.”

Douma was honored by Gift of Life Michigan recently with the 2020 Donation Champion Innovation Award for his efforts to support organ and tissue donation and to encourage more people to sign up on the Michigan Organ Donor Registry. He is one of 15 individuals and three hospitals to be honored as Donation Champions. Other winners include:

  • Volunteer: Lydia and Ward Kimball, West Branch
  • Community partner: Wayne State University, Detroit
  • Donation storyteller: WLNS, Ch. 6 TV, Lansing
  • Hospital executive leader: Dr. Harry Anderson, St. Joseph Hospital – Ann Arbor
  • Hospital Educator: Wendy Lavin, Sinai Grace Hospital, Detroit
  • Secretary of State employee: Kelly Davis, Shepherd, MI
  • Medical Examiner: Dr. Joyce deJong, Medical Examiner
  • Honoring Life Through Donation Award: Chad Milton, Grand Rapids
  • Nurse: Elise Pavlick, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit
  • Physician: Dr. Robert Beck, Bronson Methodist Hospital, Kalamazoo
  • Donation Liaison: Kathi St. Pierre, Northern Michigan Hospital, Petoskey
  • Funeral Professional: Rita Jordan, O.H. Pye, Detroit
  • Transplant center professional: Jennifer Fogarty, Beaumont Royal Oak
  • Multicultural Difference Maker: Terra DeFoe
  • Hospital Spiritual Care: Cindi Veldheer DeYoung, Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital, Grand Rapids
  • Donor hospital of the year: Hurley Medical Center, Flint
  • Legacy Award: Dr. Theresa Jacobs, Michigan Medicine, Ann Arbor
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