Organ Donation, a program that could save lives

by | May 3, 2019 | What’s Happening

Janet S. Wright

Thursday, May 16, 7 pm
Zeiders American Dream Theater, 4509 Commerce Street, Virginia Beach

For the past 15 years during Spring Into Healthy Living, Jewish Family Service has presented free programming on a variety of topics, including breast cancer, heart disease, cancer immunotherapy, brain health, and improving sleep. The 2018 program, “Music. Medicine. Hope.” featured Charity “Sunshine” Tilleman-Dick,* a world-renowned opera singer who had undergone two separate double lung transplants in 2009 and 2012. She was joined by her physician, Dr. Marie Budev of The Cleveland Clinic, who had suffered a stroke while caring for Tilleman-Dick. Together they shared their story of how their lives intersected and the bond they formed as doctor and patient, as well as friends. It was their touching and inspiring stories about the life-changing impact of organ transplants that led JFS to develop this year’s important program on Organ Donation: The Gift of Life.

Janet S. Wright, MD FACC, director of Science and Policy from the Office of the Surgeon General, is the evening’s keynote speaker. A panel of experts including Dr. David Baran, a transplant specialist with Sentara Heart Hospital; Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz from Congregation Beth El in Norfolk; Wallace Green, a transplant recipient; and Al Diaz and Thom Hutchins, family members of organ donation recipients, will join Wright on the program. Kathryn Barrett, former medical editor with WVEC-TV, will moderate the panel discussion.

According to Donate Life America, over 114,000 people are waiting for a life-saving transplant, and every 10 minutes, 10 people are added to the waiting list. One organ, eye, and tissue donor, the organizations says, can save and heal more than 75 lives.

Organ Donation: A Panel Discussion

Dr. Janet Wright advocates for the need for organ, tissue, and cornea donations and the importance of people to register as organ donors. She also works to dispel some of the myths about organ donation. Wright joined the Surgeon General’s team in March 2019. Previously, Wright served as executive director of Million Hearts® and was senior vice president for science and quality control at the American College of Cardiology.

“We are so fortunate to have Dr. Wright join us for this event. After speaking to her about our goals for the evening, she wholeheartedly agreed to participate. She said she is a huge advocate on this topic, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have her as our keynote speaker!” says Kelly Burroughs, JFS chief executive officer.

Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz will address the ethical issues surrounding organ donation. “I think this program is timely for the community, and particularly the Jewish community, as there is often a knee-jerk reaction to the topic of organ donation,” says Rabbi Arnowitz.

After he moved to this area in 2011, Arnowitz became active with LifeNet as an advocate for organ donation and has witnessed how sensitively and ethically the organization works with families of organ donors. But when his cousin died last fall after waiting for a liver transplant, the subject became not just one of ethics—it became very personal. “It’s a mitzvah today to be an organ donor…it’s the gift of life,” says Arnowitz, who will share more about this story at the program.

Dr. David Baran will share his perspective as a physician who daily witnesses the agony of patients waiting for transplants. According to, 22 people die every day because the organ they need is not donated in time.

Baran joined Sentara in 2017 as the system director for Heart Failure, Transplantation and Mechanical Circulatory Support. His goal is to build the program at the Heart Hospital into a nationwide leader in Advanced Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplantation. Baran is on the editorial board of the Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation. His research focuses on immunosuppression, heart transplant donor selection, and mechanical circulatory support. He is a professor of medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

Prior to joining Sentara, Baran served as director of Heart Failure and Transplant Research at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center where his team routinely performed more than 50 transplants per year and participated in many device, heart failure, and transplant research trials.

Wallace Green will share his inspiring story as a two-time kidney recipient and how his life was positively impacted through the gift of life. The Virginia Beach resident volunteers and serves as an ambassador with LifeNet, Donate Life Virginia, and other organizations.

Rounding out the panel are Al Diaz and Thom Hutchins. Diaz’ wife and daughter were both tissue donors. Hutchins’ son Kyle passed away at the age of 22 in April 2017 and was an organ donor. His gifts provided life to four different people. They will share their heart-wrenching and touching stories of seeing their loved ones live on through others.

JFS presents this program in partnership with LifeNet Health, the Brock Institute of Eastern Virginia Medical School, and WHRO.

TowneBank is the presenting sponsor of JFS’ 15th Annual Spring Into Healthy Living.

Amy Cobb

The program is free and open to the community with RSVP. Register at or call 757-321-2233.

*It is with great sadness that JFS announces that Charity “Sunshine” Tilleman-Dick passed away on April 25, 2019.