UAlbany Researchers to Identify Motives Behind Organ and Tissue Donation
New study will expand UAlbany's model campaign to bolster state donation registry

Contact: Karl Luntta (518) 437-4981; cell (518) 265-4114

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 15, 2003) -- With a critical shortage of organ and tissue donations on the nation's registries, a new research collaboration between the departments of communication at the University at Albany and the University at Buffalo and the New York Alliance for Donation (NYAD, formerly the New York State Task Force to Increase Organ and Tissue Donation) aims to bolster the registry by discovering motivations behind organ donation. The study will help determine key messages and themes for a public awareness campaign to promote awareness of donation and related issues among young people, an important demographic in the quest to augment the nation's shortages.

Initially, NYAD will fund communication courses at UAlbany, UBuffalo and SUNY Geneseo that will expand on a pioneering UAlbany communication campaign model developed during a spring 2002 semester undergraduate course devoted to designing and executing public information campaigns to promote donation. The New York State Department of Health and the Center for Donation and Transplant provided funding and expertise for students working on the project.

"During our spring semester course," said UAlbany communication Professor Teri Harrison, "it became apparent that we had developed a significant organ and tissue donation public awareness campaign for college-age students. However, we didn't have clear concepts on how to approach and talk to students individually about organ donations. We're taking this notion to a research setting to strengthen our knowledge about the motives behind organ donation, ultimately giving us better insights into reaching this important target audience through various communication methods."

Currently nearly 80,000 people nationwide, including 8,000 New Yorkers, are waiting for organ transplants. Tens of thousands more are waiting for tissue transplants. Some 480,000 New Yorkers have signed up on the state's Organ and Tissue Donor Registry, created in 2000 by Gov. George E. Pataki. However, the need for organ donations continues to exceed the supply -- every day in the United States an average of 17 people die waiting for an organ transplant. When a donation is obtained, it is possible to transplant as many as 25 different organs and tissues, including the heart, lung, kidney, liver, pancreas and intestine. Tissue transplants including eyes, bone, skin, heart valves, tendons and veins can fight infections in burn victims, prevent the loss of limbs and restore eyesight.

NYAD is also providing seed funding to plan a proposal to finance research, pilot data collection and analysis, course development and the integration of relevant research activities.

Established in 1844 and designated a center of the State University of New York in 1962, the University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages 17,000 diverse students in eight degree-granting schools and colleges.

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