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Chicago transplant surgeon aims to increase life-saving options for African American patients

By Leah Hope, ABC 7 News

Jacquelyne Charleston has been waiting for a transplant for weeks. A liver from a living or deceased donor could save her life.

Dr. Dinee Simpson, who specializes in liver and kidney transplants at Northwestern Medicine, is Charleston’s physician.

“I would like to see, on a day-by-day and week-to-week basis, more African American patients in the operating room, getting the transplant that they need,” Simpson said.

She wants to have more discussions, particularly with African Americans, to increase live-saving options and organ donation.

“It’s the best treatment for kidney disease. So why are we not seeing those who are at the highest risk represented in the numbers that they should be, on the waiting list for transplant?” Simpson said.

When Simpson was 19 years old, she two large masses removed from her breast. With that successful surgery, she was cured and her career goals were set.

Fast-forward to her residency, where she met some African American patients who motivated her to choose the field of transplant surgery.

“The reaction was incredible. Three of the six people hugged me. One person cried. But all of them said, ‘Wow, I have not seen a Black doctor or a Black surgeon. I’m so happy that you’re on the team,'” Simpson said. “There was something about me looking the way that I looked that comforted them. That spoke volumes to me.”

Simpson said she sees so many positive outcomes, like Brandon Griffin and his mother, Antoinette. Brandon donated a kidney to his mom. Now, they share not only a birthday, but a kidney as well.

“I think a lot of people are scared of transplant because they don’t know what life after transplant means. Life after transplant means you’re working, you’re exercising, you’re living life to its fullest. That’s what we expect. That’s what our goal is,” Simpson said.

Northwestern Medicine already has Latino transplant outreach. Simpson’s project will focus on the African American community.

This article originally appeared on ABC 7 News.

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