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February 13, 2002


Mason Trust Grants Support Transplantation Programs at Emory University

Access to Transplant Care Project and Pediatric Cornea Transplant Program Receive Grants

Two new grants to Emory University's Woodruff Health Sciences Center from the Carlos and Marguerite Mason Trust will help ensure access to care for Georgia patients in need of transplantation. Wachovia Bank, trustee of the Mason Trust, has awarded the Emory Transplant Center a two-year grant of $1 million in support of the Access to Transplant Care Project, and the Emory Eye Center bridge funding for its Pediatric Cornea Transplant Program.

The Emory Transplant Center's Access to Transplant Care Project was originally funded by the Mason Trust in June 2000 to ensure access to care for financially disadvantaged Georgians and to support evaluation and treatment of those patients referred to Emory for transplantation. It included four initiatives: access to transplantation; community/professional education; legislative awareness; and philanthropic endeavors.

The new $1 million award will build on the existing Transplant Access Program by providing even greater access to care and enhanced services throughout the entire transplant process, including pre-transplant, transplant and post-transplant phases. In addition, the program will focus on increasing the number of living donor transplants at Emory, which would increase the supply of donor organs and the accessibility of transplants for more patients.

"Unlike any other medical area, transplantation requires a lifetime commitment on behalf of transplant patients, the medical institution, transplant faculty and staff," explains Christian P. Larsen, M.D., D.Phil., the Carlos and Marguerite Mason Professor of Surgery and director of the Emory Transplant Center. "This commitment creates a major responsibility for medical institutions to provide efficient and effective transplant services and to make certain that individuals are well prepared and informed, from both a medical and financial perspective, as they enter into this commitment," he says.

Transplant patients must absorb an overwhelming amount of information, and the access to care program allows Emory to provide enhanced patient orientation and consultations with physicians, nurse coordinators, social workers and nutritionists to help the patient understand what to expect and what is expected of them. Three important new areas of support, designed to improve transplant outcomes, include enhanced financial education, designated living donor coordinators and outreach coordinators.

"One of the greatest barriers to transplantation today is the availability of organs," Dr. Larsen explained. "Living donation provides a method of increasing the supply of donor organs, making transplantation available to more Georgians. But living donor transplantation is time intensive due to the evaluation, surgical and post-operative care for both the donor and the recipient, and requires more resources."

The $118,000 bridge funding grant from the Mason Trust for corneal transplantation will enable the Emory Eye Center to continue supporting the care of children in need of transplants. Cornea transplants are the most common form of transplant, and because of the new techniques and drugs developed over the last four decades, this surgery has a very high success rate. Emory Eye Center's pediatric cornea transplant program is the only such program in Georgia.

Unfortunately, cornea transplants are among the most difficult cases to manage in children. And, although the follow-up care is very difficult and is as important in children as the surgery itself, insurance rarely pays for this follow-up care. Emory Eye Center has had an acute need for funding to bridge the gap to enable the much-needed program to continue.

"We are so pleased that Emory's Pediatric Cornea Transplant Program has been recognized and deemed worthy by the Mason Trust," said Emory pediatric ophthalmologist Arlene Drack, M.D., who performs follow-up vision rehabilitation, teaching babies and young children to "see" with their newly repaired eye. "On behalf of numerous children and their families, I am supremely grateful for this grant," Dr. Drack said.

Emory's program in organ transplantation is the most comprehensive in the State of Georgia, and includes heart, liver, lung, kidney, kidney-pancreas, bone marrow and cornea. During the past ten years more than 3,000 patients have received transplanted organs at Emory. The program is highly regarded for combining state-of-the-art patient care, innovative research, and patient and physician education.

Emory's transplant program has been significantly enhanced by support from the Mason Trust — a private foundation created by the estate of Mrs. Marguerite Fugazzi Mason in the loving memory of her husband, Carlos Mason. Grants from the Mason Trust are awarded to Georgia non-profit organizations to improve the care of Georgians receiving organ transplants and to improve the process of organ transplantation.

Support from the Mason Trust helped create the Carlos and Marguerite Mason Chair in Transplantation Biology at Emory and supported the establishment of the Emory Transplant Center in 1998. Since 1995, the Mason Trust has funded basic and clinical research at Emory in transplantation biology, including the development of a strategy that would promote acceptance of organ transplants without the need for long-term immune suppression — true immune tolerance. This research, led by Dr. Larsen and by transplant surgeon Thomas Pearson, M.D., D.Phil., Livingston Professor of Surgery, and their colleagues, is critical to the success of organ transplantation, since the medications that transplant patients must take for their entire lives leave them vulnerable to infections and other complications.

"The Mason Trust has made an extraordinary investment in helping Georgians receive needed transplants and in assuring a better quality of life for these patients," said Dr. Larsen."I am excited by the prospect of having a major impact on improving the accessibility of transplant care and services offered at the Emory Transplant Center to patients throughout the State of Georgia who have multiple forms of end-stage organ failure."

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