Kidneys for Communities needs your support

About

Save lives. Save communities.
Save the world.

Right now, around 100,000 people in the U.S. urgently need a kidney transplant to save their life. But based on yearly averages, only about 6,500 people will generously become a living kidney donor this year. Everyone else will continue to wait—year after year—until they hopefully one day receive their new kidney.

There simply aren’t enough living donors, and there are too many people waiting in line. It’s a losing numbers game, but we believe in our solution to fix it.

Kidneys for Communities has created a new pathway for living donors to actually play a role in who receives their kidney. “Community-directed donation” empowers potential donors to personalize their life-saving gift by directing their kidney donation to a specific “community” they want to support—including religious affiliations, fraternities and sororities, unions, alumni groups and more. This single, altruistic act can start a paired kidney chain that saves dozens of lives.

With nearly 750,000 Americans battling end-stage renal disease, there’s a good chance you personally know somebody who urgently needs help.

Mission & Vision

We believe we can change the world together

The mission of Kidneys for Communities is to address the shortage of kidneys needed for end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients through proactive community outreach programs. We believe that communities are uniquely designed to take care of each other, and our vision is to leverage the immense compassion of communities to radically increase the number of living kidney donors in the U.S.

Partners

It takes a village—and many
partners—to make this happen

Anyone who has been involved in a living kidney donation knows that the processes for finding and/or donating a kidney are layered and complex. We at Kidneys for Communities remove as many of the obstacles as possible for donors and recipients by partnering with nationally recognized kidney registries and pairing exchanges. We’re proud of the work we’ve put into creating a backend network of partners we trust to help us fulfill our mission to save lives through community-directed donation.

Team

Meet our community

Atul Agnihotri

Board President and CEO

As the CEO of Kidneys for Communities, Atul Agnihotri’s 20+ years of global leadership experience building and transforming Fortune 500 companies plays an integral role in shaping the future of the first-ever national “community-directed donation” program.

While Atul’s business acumen supports the backbone of Kidneys for Communities’ success, his personal experience with kidney donation fuels his passion to expand the pool of living kidney donors and help others by educating communities about the impact of paired kidney donations. In fact, Atul is a kidney transplant recipient himself.

Recently, Atul spearheaded a historical agreement between the State of Israel and the United Arab Emirates that led to a series of kidney transplants saving the lives of three women in the two countries. This first-ever exchange between Israel and an Arab state is the outcome of months of behind-the-scenes work by Atul with APKD, the UAE Organ Donation and Transplant Committee and the Israel Center for Transplantation. USA Today featured the historical living kidney transplant extensively.

Backed by decades of experience leading critical business transformations globally during his career at Owens Corning, Atul understands the challenges that lie ahead—namely, that more people need a kidney than those who will donate and that an innovative approach is required to address this challenge.

Debbie Shearer

Board Secretary and Chair, Kidneys for Communities’ Living Donor Connections

Debbie Shearer didn’t plan on being an advocate for living kidney donors, but the universe works in mysterious ways. This mother of three became a living donor after her son, George, tragically passed away. Prior to his death, George made it known that he wanted to be an organ donor, but this turned out to not be possible due to the state of his organs at the time of his death.

Debbie knew what she had to do.

Four years after George’s death, carrying out the wish of her son set into motion a remarkable ripple of compassion that changed the lives of six families through a paired kidney donor chain coordinated through the Alliance for Paired Kidney Donation.

During an interview with Parade Magazine, where the living kidney donor chain was featured, Debbie said, “I just thought it would help my family heal. And I thought I was going to be doing something for one person, not a dozen!” We now feel like we have an extended family.

Debbie has since become an avid proponent of kidney donation, mentoring and guiding donors and sharing her story with the world to support others and encourage living organ donation.

In addition to her devotion to living kidney donor education, Debbie also brings a nearly-20-year role coordinating events and sponsor partner relationships with the PGA TOUR.

After years of working with thousands of volunteers, Debbie understands that there is typically a driving force that compels people to help others. Understanding the impact of volunteerism and the desire to further support her community, Debbie launched Parents with Hope, a support group for parents who have lost their young adult children.

Through her work, Debbie understands the power of community and is working with the Kidneys for Communities team to increase the living kidney donor pool.

Olivia P. Suter, LICSW

Board Member

A clinical social worker practicing in Washington, DC, Olivia Suter knows first-hand the impact of end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Olivia experienced every step of ESRD, from diagnosis to waitlist to, finally, kidney transplant when a close family member was diagnosed with ESRD. Her goal is for fewer families to suffer while waiting in limbo for kidney transplants due to the shortage of living kidney donors.

Qualified social workers play an integral role on transplant teams. Typically, social workers conduct psychosocial evaluations for those considering living transplant donation. Often serving as an advocate for donors and recipients, social workers are involved with crisis intervention, patient and family education, and referrals to community resources.

Olivia’s empathy and experience in understanding the impact of ESRD diagnosis on donors, recipients, and their loved ones make her invaluable to Kidneys for Communities.

In addition to her clinical work, Olivia also serves on the board of Echoes of Lasting Peace and has been involved in initiatives in the Middle East to bridge divides between various communities.

Ira L. Brody

Co-founder and Advisor

In 2007, Ira Brody came out of retirement after a 40-year career as a CMO in marketing and public relations to assume the position of CMO of the National Kidney Registry and then the Alliance for Paired Kidney Donation. Ira wanted to venture into areas where he could use his experience to explore the laws and ethics hampering the acquisition of kidneys. He has lectured at universities throughout the country on cause-related marketing and has participated in numerous bioethics conferences throughout the world.

Ira has said, “End-Stage Renal Disease is not cancer; we know the answer…it is a living donor transplant! We also know that every healthy human being can potentially set off a chain that can save many lives…then why the problem?” Ira answers with a quote from Walt Kelly’s comic strip character, Pogo, “We have met the enemy and [it] is us.” Ira volunteered to be an altruistic kidney donor. “I could not work on a problem if my personal actions were not part of the solution.”

Austyn Evans

Program Leader

You never know what you don’t know until your life is turned upside down, and being strong and learning are your only choices. Austyn’s son suffered from a condition called LUTO and was diagnosed with ESRD at birth. That was the beginning of her arduous journey of educating herself about kidneys and available options, including treatments and resources for children.

To her amazement, she quickly learned that resources for pediatric kidney patients paled compared to those for adult kidney patients. Austyn instantly decided to utilize her extensive career as a marketing director for multiple hospitality franchises and create a pathway to success for her son.

The search for a living kidney donor for her son included educating herself, generating awareness, fundraising, and building a community that joined her family on their path to success. This path brought Austyn, her husband, and Conrad to join the Kidneys for Communities family. 

Kidneys for Communities supported her family through the most challenging of times. Austyn has said, “I’m eternally grateful to the Kidneys for Communities team for embracing my family as their own. They truly made a difference in our donor search. I had exhausted all resources, but with their guidance and support, we got Conrad to the right center, and he received his gift of life. None of this would have been possible without the fantastic hearts and generosity of numerous donors who have provided support. “

Through her family’s journey with Kidneys for Communities, she became even more passionate about helping others and giving back to the community that has given her family so much. 

Conrad recently received a transplant from his father and has experienced a fantastic transformation, and he is thriving. There is no more extraordinary gift than the gift of life. 

Austyn is passionate and determined to continue expanding the resources and support to give pediatric families the necessary tools, training, and empowerment to connect with living donors.

Annette M. Jackson, Ph.D. F(ACHI) Duke University

Chair, Medical Advisory Committee

Annette Jackson is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Surgery and Immunology at Duke University and serves as Chief of Clinical Transplantation Immunology Research and Director in the Clinical Transplantation Immunology Laboratory. She received her Ph.D. in Immunology from Duke University and continued her clinical HLA training at Johns Hopkins University where she remained on faculty. Dr. Jackson holds leadership positions in the American Society of Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics (ASHI), the American Society of Transplantation (AST), United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), and serves on ASHI-AST Sensitization in Transplantation: Assessment of Risk (STAR) and Banff Allograft Rejection working groups. Dr. Jackson has published in the areas of HLA desensitization and kidney paired exchange and her current research has focused on the role of HLA and non-HLA antibodies in allograft injury.

Stan Stepkowski, DVM, Ph.D.

Past President

Dr. Stan Stepkowski stood at the origins of some of the most widely used medications in transplantation. He was educated at the University of Warsaw and the Polish Academy of Sciences in Poland and then trained at Radium Hospital in Oslo, Norway where he earned his Ph.D. He then moved on to Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, for post-doctoral training, and then at the University of Texas in Houston, Texas.

For over 40 years, Dr. Stepkowski has been working in experimental and clinical organ transplantation. For the last ten years, he has held a professorship position at The University of Toledo College of Medicine. Although he was very privileged to work in different countries, his home has been the United States. He is an extensively trained transplant immunologist experienced in clinical tissue typing and clinical immunology.

A publication record of over 200 high-impact manuscripts, including clinical research papers, speaks for itself.

Jay Julian

Vice-Chair, Kidneys for Communities’ Living Donor Connections

Upon meeting Jay Julian, an avid outdoorsman and five-time marathon runner, the first thought that comes to mind is not a two-time living donor. Julian is proof that living donors can live active and healthy lives long after their donations. Julian’s liver and kidney donations were non-directed, and his 2010 kidney donation launched a seven-person paired kidney chain.

Driven by the belief that living donation is one of the most unselfish and impactful ways to demonstrate love for another person, since 2016, Julian has been mentoring living kidney donors and advocates for fellow living donors.

With more than 10 years of training and facilitation, program mobilization and project management experience in both nonprofit and government sectors, Julian is a Human Resources Talent Acquisition Specialist for Colorado’s Department of Corrections and is a member of the Correctional Peace Officers Foundation. Through Embracing the Journey, an organization that supports parents of LGBTQ+ children, Julian and his wife lead support groups that address the cultural and spiritual challenges for parents who choose to love their children unconditionally after they come out.

There are only a few things in Julian’s life that can compare to the joy that has resulted from his two altruistic donations, and this joy is what motivates his dedication to mentor those who are considering living donations.

Robert C. Green II, Ph.D.

Chief Information Officer

Dr. Green has a unique history that blends professional expertise in software engineering, data analytics and consulting with research expertise in high performance computing and computational intelligence. In the past he has served in a variety of roles ranging from software engineer to director of wind and solar research. His professional mission is to leverage his unique and expansive background to positively impact as many lives as possible through the proper use of technology and analysis of data.

Dulat Bekbolsynov, PH.D.

Research Volunteer

Dulat has a diverse background in science and kidney transplantation. He started his career in biomedical science as a part-time laboratory assistant in a city hospital in his home country of Kazakhstan in 2003. In 2006, he was accepted and received a full scholarship for an undergraduate microbiology program at Colorado State University.

Unfortunately, his study was interrupted the same year by an end-stage renal disease (ESRD) diagnosis and kidney transplantation. Dulat was able to complete his undergraduate degree in 2010, and he then joined a stem cell research lab in Kazakhstan, where he worked on a regenerative medicine project until 2012.

Finally, in 2014, he was privileged to join with Dr. Stepkowski to pursue his Ph.D. research in immunology at the University of Toledo. After completing his Ph.D. in 2018, Dulat worked in a tissue typing lab at Gift of Life Michigan in Ann Arbor. Today, his Ph.D. research and postdoctoral career are dedicated to finding ways of mitigating the donor shortage crisis in the U.S.

Join our cause. If we can save a life, we can save the world.