According to the nation’s first female black transplant surgeon, while organ donations are distributed fairly across America based on race, African-Americans still face unique disadvantages in this life-saving procedure she has been involved in since 1989.

Velma Scantlebury stated to Zenger that there is a need for more organ donors from non-white Americans. She cites the Minority Organ and Tissue Transplant Education Program which was established in 1991.

African-Americans are less likely to be on transplant lists for kidney transplants, despite the fact that they are more likely than whites to have end-stage renal disease. They are less likely to have access to kidney transplants than whites. Scantlebury stated that her black patients are subject to inequalities in their health care, poor treatment from some doctors, lack insurance, late referrals and lack of health literacy.

“They are often diagnosed later due to a dearth of equity in health care. Many people who are referred for transplant have trouble navigating the system and getting the necessary tests. “African-Americans are more likely to have diabetes and hypertension, but many patients are not given the opportunity to have their kidney function tested,” said Scantlebury. He has performed over 2,000 transplants.

When she meets with patients in the final stages of renal disease, she often gets the same answers.

“My question for patients is: Who were you seeing? Are you going to your doctor? I often hear the following: doctor retired, lack of insurance, couldn’t afford medications, doctor retired, couldn’t go back because they owed money to their office. Scantlebury stated that lack of healthcare for all citizens is a major problem in the country. “Better education, more doctors who are sensitive to patients’ needs — discussing options early and advocating on the part doctors — can all help.”

Scantlebury was a woman who had to fight for her place in a highly specialized field of surgery that is dominated by white surgeons and men. However, her determination and support from her parents has kept her going.

“Our parents taught us that education was important and that we could be anything we wanted to be. I didn’t grow up looking for obstacles. Zenger told her that she saw possibilities. “My parents knew that I wanted to become a doctor. My mother, who was very humiliated, came to America to clean floors.

“She wanted me to be a doctor. With the support and belief of my parents and my faith in God, I was able to pursue my dream.

She is currently a professor of Surgery at Texas Christian University, and the University of North Texas Health Science Center, and Medical School in Forth Worth. In 2020, she retired from Christiana Care’s Kidney Transfer Program in Delaware.

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Racism was very apparent. Patients objected to me being their surgeon on a few occasions. The Japanese surgeon only defended me in one instance and she spoke out. “Patients believed I was there to clean their rooms, take their trays, and so on, but not the doctor. I had to keep my self-esteem high and tell myself that I could do it. I’m capable, I’m talented, and I can do it with God’s help.

Reluctant patients were given a choice: A black female surgeon or none at all.

“I met as many patients as I could before the surgery, so that they wouldn’t be surprised when it happened. Instead, I informed them that I was their only option and that they can pass on the organ transplant to someone else. Scantlebury stated that they often change their minds.