UC Irvine Medical Center was recognized today for its role in supporting organ and tissue donation. In 2009, UC Irvine had 16 organ donors and 56 organs transplanted, the most among Orange County hospitals and the second-most in the seven-county Greater Los Angeles area served by OneLegacy, the nonprofit, federally designated organ and tissue recovery organization.

“Supporting families’ wishes for end-of-life care is one of our most important duties,” said Dr. Darren J. Malinoski, director of the surgical intensive care unit and chair of UCI’s Organ Donor Council. “Sometimes those wishes include organ donation, and we do everything we can to accommodate them.”

UC Irvine and 48 other hospitals were honored by OneLegacy for their support of organ and tissue donation during 2009 at the “Celebrating Our Partners” learning symposium and awards & recognition ceremony today at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.

The medical center’s donor program has grown steadily since 2005, overseen by the Organ Donor Council, which reviews policies and practices and addresses legal, medical and ethical issues related to donation. In 2008, 59 organs from 21 people at UC Irvine were donated. Each December, UCI honors organ donors, recipients and their families by contributing a rose representing each donor to OneLegacy’s Donate Life Rose Parade float.

Today’s OneLegacy ceremony included a video featuring Kathryn Jennell, wife of organ donor John Jennell, and UCI Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eugene Spiritus that describes an uncommon process called “donation after cardiac death.”

“We’re grateful to those who participate in organ donation,” Malinoski said. “During this difficult time, a family is often strengthened by the fact that their loved one’s organs will help someone else in need.”

OneLegacy’s awards reflect the success of the partnership between the agency and area hospitals in the Donation & Transplantation Community of Practice, established in 2003 by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to save and enhance thousands of lives annually by spreading best practices to the country’s largest hospitals.

Seventeen local hospitals had donation conversion rates of at least 75 percent in 2009. Another 10, including UC Irvine Medical Center, approached the national goal by achieving conversion rates of 65 percent to 74 percent. Donation conversion rates represent the percentage of actual donors out of all potential donors.

“The opportunity to save lives through organ donation comes at a time when families face the loss of a loved one, often under sudden circumstances,” stated Tom Mone, executive vice president and CEO of OneLegacy. “Thanks to the generosity of donor families and registered donors, and OneLegacy’s collaboration with hospitals and transplant centers, and the skill of OneLegacy’s donation professionals, people in need of lifesaving transplants are better served than ever before.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Organ Procurement & Transplantation Network, 28,463 organs were transplanted in the country last year. In the Greater Los Angeles area, hospitals partnered with OneLegacy to recover 1,182 lifesaving organs for transplant from 382 deceased donors, and there were a record 2,014 tissue donors. In 2009, OneLegacy also achieved its highest-ever organ donation conversion rate, 69 percent, up two points from the previous year and 12 points from 2005.

About UC Irvine Medical Center: Orange County’s only university research hospital, Level I trauma center, American College of Surgeons-verified regional burn center and National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, UC Irvine Medical Center offers acute- and general-care services at its new 482,000-square-foot UC Irvine Douglas Hospital. U.S. News & World Report has included UCI for nine consecutive years on its list of America’s Best Hospitals, giving special recognition to its programs in urology and gynecology.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 under- graduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3.9 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.

About OneLegacy: The nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ and tissue donation in the seven-county Greater Los Angeles area, OneLegacy works with 200 hospitals and 12 transplant centers and covers a diverse population of 19 million. It is the largest of the 58 federally designated organ recovery agencies in the U.S. People wishing to make the commitment to donate may register online at www.donatelifecalifornia.org or its Spanish-language counterpart, www.donevidacalifornia.org.