It’s way more than a paycheque — there’s a greater purpose to everything we do.”
For Tony Abed, a senior program manager at Canadian Blood Services in Ottawa, helping to maintain and enhance a national registry that links patients on wait-lists with actual organ donors is an opportunity to make a genuine difference in people’s lives.
“I look forward to coming to work every morning,” says Tony Abed, “because I’m part of a great team. We know we’re working toward something that’s really having an impact. And when we all put our heads in the same direction, we achieve way more than we could as individuals.”
Tony and his colleagues help to connect transplant patients with donors through the Canadian Transplant Registry, a platform developed by Canadian Blood Services to facilitate interprovincial organ sharing. As senior program manager, Tony draws on his background in engineering and IT project management to maintain and enhance the registry in response to constantly evolving needs. Within Canadian Blood Services, he supports the teams responsible for managing essential programs; those teams in turn work with hospitals, labs and other health-care organizations to support patients’ needs. He also interacts directly with donor and recipient coordinators at organ donation organizations and transplant centres.
“We’re here to help with everything from system access or password problems to adding new filters for sorting information within the database,” Tony explains. “In total, we support about 600 unique users across the country — people who are working every day to match patients on waiting lists with the generous organ donors who can help them regain their health.”
Unifying efforts nationwide
To ensure equitable access to organs for all Canadians, the role of Canadian Blood Services is to facilitate interprovincial organ sharing. This collaborative work relies on the Canadian Transplant Registry, a web-based data platform that currently supports three main programs:
- The Kidney Paired Donation program, which links living donors to compatible patients, often helping to create “domino chains” of multiple paired-exchange transplant surgeries coordinated by provincial health systems.
- The Highly Sensitized Patient kidney program, also a collaborative effort with our provincial partners, which finds matches for immune-sensitive patients who have a higher risk of rejecting new organs.
- The National Organ Waitlist, a real-time data source listing non-renal patients throughout Canada who are critically in need of transplants.
The Canadian Transplant Registry supports all of these initiatives, providing real-time access to data on recent activities, as well as for use in higher-level analytics and reporting. The platform gives health systems quicker, easier access to information connecting organ donors, both living and deceased, with potential recipients. More generally, the registry enables provincial programs to achieve together what can be harder to do on their own, and the result is better transplant outcomes for patients.
Doing work that matters
Moving forward, Tony and his teammates will be adding new dimensions to the platform as Canadian Blood Services helps to advance organ sharing among the provinces — focusing initially on hearts required by patients who are either hard to match or have medically urgent conditions.
For Tony, it’s one more example of how Canadian Blood Services is constantly evolving to meet the needs of patients. “Most people don’t realize the important role we play in organ and tissue donation and transplantation,” he says. “That’s why I was happy to become part of our brand ambassador program — to help get the message out about all the services we provide under one unified umbrella. These are exciting times for the organization.”
Like many of his colleagues, Tony also knows firsthand why the work he does matters. A decade ago, one of his relatives received a kidney from another family member. Unfortunately, the new organ ultimately failed and the recipient has been back on dialysis for the past three years, waiting for another match. And, as Tony knows too well, even though more transplants are performed across Canada each year, the number of patients who face similar challenges remains far too high.
“I feel driven to work here,” he says. “It’s way more than a paycheque — there’s a greater purpose to everything we do and you feel you’ve accomplished something at the end of the day. Plus, we have a phenomenal team, probably the best I’ve ever worked with. This is a busy area, but everyone works so well together you don’t feel the stress. And I know we all feel proud to be doing work that has such a positive impact for Canadians.”
for organ and tissue donation and transplantation
In 2018–2019, Canadian Blood Services received an additional $3.4 million over two years from Health Canada to support further improvement of the OTDT system. This will enable more effective matching of donors and recipients, helping to ensure that Canadians have timely access to transplant care.