The Living Donor Advocate Team

Becoming a living donor helps alleviate the shortage of donor organs and save the lives of those most in need. But it is also a large decision that can come with life-altering risks. The purpose of the Living Donor Advocate Team is to inform potential donors about every aspect of the donation process.

About Living Donor Liver Transplantation

A living donor liver transplantation is a surgery that removes a diseased or malfunctioning liver and replaces it with a portion of a healthy liver from a living donor. Due to the liver’s unique ability to regenerate, the partial livers of both the donor and recipient soon grow into complete organs.

Learn more about living donor liver transplantation here.

Role of the Living Donor Advocate Team

The Living Donor Advocate Team is dedicated solely to the well-being of the donor. Both before a decision has been made and throughout the donation process, they will educate and counsel donors on a variety of topics. These may include:

  • Medical: How is the operation performed? What are the risks?
  • Financial: Who will pay for the surgery? What kind of financial assistance is available?
  • Psychosocial: What are the best ways to deal with stress and anxiety? Where can donors find long-term support?

In addition, the team will advocate for the donor by ensuring they are making informed decisions throughout the donation process and understands their options at every stage. This includes the right to opt-out at any time.

Team Members

Jennica Kim | Living Donor Specialist

In addition to Jennica’s role of initially screening and educating our patients on living liver donation, she also facilitates the donor through their evaluation and testing. She is available to our donors throughout the process should they need anything.  Once a donor has been approved for surgery she manages their pre-operative appointments, surgery dates and their follow up care.

Adam Griesemer, MD | Surgical Director – Transplant Surgeon

Donors will meet with Dr. Griesemer during the donor evaluation.  He will perform a physical exam and review the donor’s medical and family history.  The surgeon will educate our donors on the risks and potential complications that go along with liver donation.  He will explain the surgical procedures used during the donation and transplantation, as well as what a donor will experience during their hospitalization.  The surgeon will also review what is expected of the donors post-operatively regarding their recovery and follow up care. 

Alyson Fox, MD | Medical Director – Hepatologist

Dr. Fox meets with each donor to educate them on the risks of liver donation and explain the benefit of living donation for the recipient. She will perform a physical exam and review the donor’s medical and family history. Dr. Fox helps to ensure the donor’s liver is safe for donation.

Douglas E. Marratta, MD | Internist/Independent Doctor

Dr. Marratta is an independent physician and a Living Donor Advocate. He is a general medical doctor on the full-time faculty of Columbia University Irving Medical Center with a general medical practice. Dr. Marratta is an equal member of the Donor Team but not tied in any way to the Department of Transplantation. He evaluates donors from the perspective of their general medical condition and the potential effect on their future health.

Akhil Shenoy, MD  | Psychiatrist 

Donors are required to bring a care partner with them to this appointment. (The care partner is the person they have designated to support them through this process but ultimately this is the individual who will help care for the donor when they are discharged from the hospital). Dr. Shenoy’s role is to help the donor understand the risks and benefits of liver donation. Donation can be emotionally stressful and a donor may become depressed, anxious or overwhelmed during the surgical procedures and recovery. Dr. Shenoy will assess their ability to handle the process and work with the potential donor to help them decide if donation is the best decision for them. He will also prepare the care partner for the tasks involved in their role.

Karen Robbins and Sonia Scott | Social Workers & Independent Living Donor Advocates 

Donors are required to bring a care partner with them to this appointment.  Karen and Sonia are social workers and living donor advocates.  They will work to understand the donor’s motivation for wanting to donate.  Their role is to protect the donor from being pressured into donation and make sure they understand the risks.  They will ensure the donors are fully informed, that they have a committed and responsible care partner, that they have the financial resources to handle out-of-pocket expenses and that they have reliable modes of transportation to make their visits.  They are available to our donors throughout this process to provide emotional support and arrange community resources.

Stella Goudie | Nurse Transplant Coordinator

Stella is a nurse with training in liver transplantation and donation. She ensures all concerns of the potential donor and the donor advocate team are addressed, and that the overall process is carried out properly. She will also review the Informed Consent and answer any questions before it is signed.

Jennifer Fojas | Financial Coordinator 

Our financial coordinators explain how the donor’s evaluation, surgery, hospitalization and follow up are billed and paid. They will explain what a donor can expect their out-of-pocket expenses to be, when their insurance may be used and what financial assistance options are available. They will also explain how donation may impact a donor’s ability to obtain health and/or life insurance.

Lisa Oriach | Physician Assistant

Lisa is the living liver donor physician assistant.  Her role is to care for our donors post-operatively at the follow up visits.  Her role is to help the donor while recovering post donation.  She will assess the wound and overall health while the donor is recovering and regenerating the liver.

Resources

One of the best ways to learn about the donation process is by speaking with living donors who have been through it. To get a list of donors who have offered to speak about their experiences, contact the team at (212) 305-9381.

You can also learn more about the living donation process on the following pages: