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Honoring the Gift
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IIAM Celebrates Our 30th Anniversary

IIAM's 30th anniversary is a time to reflect over past milestones and achievements, as well as a time to reaffirm our commitment to being partners in new, cutting-edge developments.

In 1986, when IIAM began, very few types of transplants were successful and routine, and the value of medical research into non-transplantable organs for institutions and donor families was vastly underestimated. In these 30 years, along with our OPO and research partners — the two cogs that drive IIAM forward — we have helped change thousands of lives.

Since 2001, when IIAM implemented an electronic data collection system, we have screened approximately 225,000 referrals — of which over 20,000 organs and tissues for research were provided to approximately 175 different researchers and studies. Gina Dunne Smith, Executive Director of IIAM, said, "Looking back, nearly every aspect of our organization and our field has evolved."

Much of our progress is the result of dramatic advancements in medical research: surgeons perfecting the most difficult procedures; improved immunosuppression to prevent organ rejection; new preservation solutions and devices to allow more organs to be placed with patients at longer distances; and making previously rejected organs suitable for transplant by repairing acutely injured cells. "Despite this, we continue to face a shortage in suitable donors to meet the demand of a transplant waiting list that has grown to nearly 120,000."

In 2007, IIAM introduced semiannual Research Recovery Workshops, training surgical and perfusion technicians to optimally recover non-transplantable organs for medical research. These workshops are regularly attended by representatives of our OPO partners, who have seen the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services expand its benchmarks to include organs placed for medical research. OPOs now rely on IIAM's research placements to meet their business needs along with their desire to fully honor the donors' gifts.

Through our Neonatal Donor Program, established in 2012, IIAM has been at the forefront of this trailblazing initiative, which is giving peace of mind to bereaved parents and opening new avenues of study for medical researchers. Please read the story on our efforts to create a Neonatal Steering Committee.

More recently, our research partnerships have delved into the spectacular world of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering, where a recipient's cells take the place of donor cells from a previously rejected organ — making the organ not only transplantable, but more likely to prevent rejection. Research on stem cells derived from donor skin can teach researchers how to reassign cells to create an organ, repair the cells that cannot heal on their own, and regenerate and replenish organs that are deteriorating.

"Today, we're at a great place, with an important role to play in new discoveries that will not only save people's lives, but also vastly improve the quality of their lives," said Smith. "There's no end in sight to the changes and breakthroughs on the horizon; as long as there's a vision, we intend to be both a leader and a partner."

IIAM is proud of our long-time partnerships with dedicated OPOs and visionary researchers who have successfully advanced our field. Here's what they have to say on the occasion of IIAM's 30th anniversary:

"Research donation allows us to give a family one final option when transplantation cannot occur. When families or donors choose research, they are not only helping one person with that organ, they could be helping millions. Millions of people are dependent on medical research to develop a new medication or cure for an affliction. Without the generosity of donors and their families who donate organs for research, medical science cannot progress. I have known many donor families that, although transplant was their first hope, they found tremendous pride in knowing their hero may have made such an enormous impact on medical science. It truly is an ultimate gift."

Dorrie Dils, Chief Executive Officer at Gift of Life Michigan, an IIAM recovery partner

"The donations made at tragic times in the lives of the families are invaluable to humanity. Through contributions to medical sciences, we may learn more about our own biology and lives may be saved."

IIAM research client

"On behalf of the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE), I would like to express my congratulations to the International Institute for the Advancement of Medicine (11AM) in honor of thirty years of honoring the gift of donation through your outstanding dedication towards medical research, education and development."

"CORE is happy to have been a partner with DAM since the beginning. The collaboration between our organizations has resulted in numerous advancements in the areas of improving transplantation, understanding of reproductive disorders, early lung development and other pulmonary illnesses, neurological diseases, diabetes & cardiovascular diseases. All of this wonderful work, however, would not have been possible without the generosity of our donor families. One simple word — YES — allows us to provide another layer of comfort to those grieving the loss of their loved ones. We recognize the importance of organ, tissue and cornea donation for the purpose of transplantation, and our organizations align to ensure that those donors and donor families whose precious gifts cannot be utilized for transplant can benefit humanity through research."

"As our partnership turns the page towards our future commitment to curing disease and improving the human condition, we look forward to working with DAM on future projects and endeavors. We stand behind this commitment through the recent expansion of our role in the 11AM Neonatal Donation Program. This program provides a legacy to the parents and families of our youngest donors and offers an unprecedented opportunity to benefit research in a multitude of arenas."

"We would like to once again congratulate the entire team at llAM for thirty years of service to our donors and donor families, and wish you the best in future."

CORE (Center for Organ Recovery & Education)

"Adverse drug effects — from pharmaceuticals for treatment of disease or alleviation of symptoms — may cause serious harm, and are a major societal problem. Most of these adverse effects are unique to humans and cannot be detected in laboratory animals. Because of our research using human tissues from IIAM, we have developed experimental approaches to detect human-specific adverse drug effects. These approaches are now part of FDA regulations and are used by pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs with improved safety profiles. We thank IIAM for our continued collaboration."

IIAM research client

"On behalf of our company, the medical transplant community and transplant patients worldwide, I would like to thank you for your role in advancing the preservation of organs for transplantation. IIAM's delivery of hearts, lungs and livers has been instrumental to our developing new technology for the preservation, monitoring, recovery and transport of hearts, lungs and livers using revolutionary warm blood perfusion instead of cold storage. With this new technology, every use is saving a life by giving patients a life-giving organ that they desperately need. Use of this technology has extended the distance that organs can be transported; preserved organs so that they are stronger; and enabled new procedures, such as minor surgeries on the organs and non-heart-beating donor organ procurement — all of which have increased the supply of available organs, saving even more lives than was possible before. Thank you for your partnership with us and especially to those donor families who make it all possible."

IIAM research client

"Over a number of years, a wide variety of excellent quality human tissue samples from over 300 individuals have been kindly donated to us with international research consent. Provided through IIAM, these human tissues have been and continue to be used in our laboratories in the UK to generate valuable information that aids the development of new drug therapies for conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer's, migraine and asthma; and provides drug safety data to support the approval of testing in clinical trials. We'd like to thank all of the donors and donor families who helped us make important small steps in the search for more effective drugs."

IIAM research client


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