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Legacy of hope: Gift of Life Michigan honors surgeon for sharing organ, tissue donation education with young doctors

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Organ and tissue donors can leave a legacy of hope and healing and Dr. Harry Anderson wants to share that legacy throughout the community and across the county.

Dr. Anderson, the medical director of the Intensive Care Unit at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital, said the best way to ensure that legacy is to instill it in the medical professionals he trains and by being a living example. His efforts to reach a new generation of physicians have earned him the 2020 Hospital Executive Donation Champion Award from Gift of Life Michigan. Dr. Harry Anderson earned the 2020 Hospital Executive Donation Champion Award for his efforts to promote organ and tissue donation education.

“We’re a training institution for medical students, residents and surgical care fellows. I think it’s important to model the type of behavior that I want to see in our trainees as they finish their training careers and take jobs across the country,” said Dr. Anderson, one of seven acute care surgeons at the Ann Arbor hospital. “I hope they model the same things they learn here, in terms of advocating for the organ and tissue donation effort.”

In addition to his role as mentor to young physicians, Dr. Anderson has been active on the Organ and Tissue Donation Committee at the hospital, chairing it for the past five years. The committee looks at donation cases and potential donation cases in order to improve the overall process and save more lives.

“Organ and tissue donation is very important for our community because, as a health care facility, we certainly have numerous patients, family members or friends who are in need of organs or tissue,” he said. “I try to be a proponent of this effort for our hospital. It honors the wishes of those that may be ill or injured in such a way that they may not survive and the gift of organ and tissue donation is something that is still available to them.”

Dr. Anderson has seen the benefits organ and tissue donation can provide for patients and said it’s important to educate staff and the community about it to help break down common misconceptions about the process. He said Gift of Life Michigan is a good partner because the organization is so visible in the community and works to reach out to provide more information to patients and the community. He hopes that other health care partners will do the same.

“The best way to encourage others is to make it a visible part of health care. It’s part of a continuation of life,” he said. “A lot of the things that we do aren’t always thought of first and foremost in the minds of caregivers, but making this a visible part of the day-to-day care in our intensive care unit certainly educates the team to help with these efforts and recognize these efforts when we’re in the middle of them.”

Dr. Anderson is one of 15 individuals and three hospitals to be honored by Gift of Life Michigan for their efforts to promote organ and tissue donation and sign more people up to the Michigan Organ Donor Registry. Other winners include:

  • Volunteer: Lydia and Ward Kimball, West Branch
  • Community Partner: Wayne State University, Detroit
  • Donation Storyteller: WLNS, Ch. 6 TV, Lansing
  • Physician: Dr. Robert Beck, Bronson Methodist Hospital, Kalamazoo
  • Hospital Educator: Wendy Lavin, Sinai Grace Hospital, Detroit
  • Hospital Spiritual Care: Cindi VeldHeer DeYoung, Spectrum Butterworth, Grand Rapids
  • Medical Examiner: Dr. Joyce deJong, Medical Examiner
  • Honoring Life Through Donation Award: Chad Milton, Grand Rapids
  • Nurse: Elise Pavlick, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit
  • Secretary of State Employee: Kelly Davis, Shepherd, MI
  • 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
  • Innovation Award: Phil Douma, Michigan Funeral Directors Association, Okemos
  • Donor Hospital of the Year: Hurley Medical Center, Flint
  • Legacy Award: Dr. Theresa Jacobs, Michigan Medicine, Ann Arbor
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