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Nevada Donor Network closer to opening statewide transplant institute

Nevada Donor Network
Nevada Donor Network

Since 2019, the Nevada Donor Network Foundation has been on a mission to bring a new transplant institute to Nevada. 

And due to a recent investment of American Rescue Plan Act funds, the nonprofit has gotten closer to bringing the institute to life. 

But why a new transplant institute? Especially since there is already a center for transplantation at University Medical Center. To answer that is Joe Ferreira, the CEO and president of the Nevada Donor Network.

Most people are unfamiliar with the nonprofit until they’re personally affected. Ferreira said they have agreements with hospitals to work with families of potential donors. Their process is to ensure they maximize organ, eye and tissue donation “whenever there’s a possibility.”

There is a criteria for donations, but almost all organs can be donated. One person can save up to eight lives with organs for transplantation, he said.

“You can leave an impact to up to 75 people through tissue and ocular donation.”

But, time is of the essence. A heart, for example, must be transplanted within four to six hours. And with emerging technologies, that timeline is starting to extend. For kidneys, he said, they have machines that can extend preservation time to 30 or 40 hours.

If you’re a Nevada resident, the scenario becomes more complicated.

“If you're a Nevadan, and you need a heart or a lung transplant, you cannot receive it in the state of Nevada,” Ferreira said. “And so that to us, being the Nevada Donor Network ... just didn't sit well with us, because to have very robust donation, and the procurement of organs, and then to have our citizens in Nevada have to go to another state to receive a heart, lungs, liver, any other organ that needs to be transplanted, is just not possible currently in Nevada.”

That means the financial burden is often put on those needing care, and that’s only if they qualify elsewhere. 

“They're paying with their lives. And so we want to do something about that.”

The Nevada Donor Network received $15 million in federal funds to support the creation of the Nevada Transplant Institute. That's one of the largest amounts awarded to a single nonprofit organization. 

They also received a commitment of $12 million from UMC with a total goal of $35 million. 

“Once we are fully funded … then it will be feasible to operationalize … Here in the state of Nevada, it'd be the first time ever a liver had been transplanted. And that will help us bring this dream that we had several years ago to reality, and now Nevadans are going to be able to receive the organs that they need, given that we have such a robust donation,” he said. 

Ferreira said they expect to be fully operational within 12 months. By then, they'll be working with UMC on liver transplants, and kidney transplants in Northern Nevada. Within 25 months, they expect to be financially sustainable and self-sufficient.

For more information or to register as an organ donor, visit the Nevada Donor Network.

Joe Ferreira, CEO and president, Nevada Donor Network  

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Zachary Green is the Coordinating Producer and a Reporter for KNPR's State of Nevada Program. He reports on Clark County, minority affairs, health, real estate, business, and gardening. You'll occasionally hear Zachary Green reporting and fill-in hosting on the State of Nevada program.
Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the online editor for Nevada Public Radio. She curates content on, our weekly newsletter and social media for Nevada Public Radio and Desert Companion.