MAYWOOD, Ill. – Each year, Loyola University Health System presents its prestigious Spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. Award to an employee who provides inspirational service to others in the spirit of the slain civil rights leader.
This year’s award winner is one of the architects of Loyola’s innovative Pay-It-Forward Kidney Transplant Program, Dr. John Milner, who formally accepted the award at Loyola’s “A Tribute to the Spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.” ceremony held in the Paul V. Galvin Memorial Chapel. The presentation took place after the keynote address by the Rev. Marshall Elijah Hatch Sr., of the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church.
“This is an amazingly important award when you reflect on what Dr. King stood for and what he accomplished,” said Paul K. Whelton, MB, MD, MSc, president and CEO of Loyola. “I can’t think of anyone more fitting than Dr. Milner to receive this award. What he and his team have accomplished with the Pay-It-Forward Kidney Transplant Program epitomizes our Magis values – a commitment to helping others, to reaching beyond existing boundaries and to treating the human spirit.”
Traditionally, transplant centers matched living-kidney donors and recipients from pairings, many of which were incompatible, made within their own institutions. This resulted in longer waiting times and less-than-ideal kidney matches. Dr. Milner and his team saw a need for something better. He and his colleagues developed the Pay-It-Forward program, which relies on human kindness and a powerful computer program to help form living-donor chains that stretch across the country and back again.
Since its inception 10 months ago, the program has initiated eight transplant chains that resulted in 12 transplants at Loyola and more than 70 transplants in states as far away as California and Pennsylvania. In 2010, Loyola performed the most good Samaritan donations and transplanted the highest percentage of incompatible pairs of any transplant center in the United States. Loyola’s success rate is 100 percent.
“This is an enormous honor that’s extremely humbling,” Dr. Milner said. “The Pay-It-Forward program is a team effort. All of my colleagues and donors are equally deserving of this award. I accept it in their collective honor.”
Dr. Milner is director of Loyola’s Living Donors Program and is an assistant professor, Department of Urology, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. Before coming to Loyola, he completed fellowships in transplantation surgery at University of Chicago Hospitals and Loyola. Prior to that, he completed a residency in urologic surgery at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. He earned his medical degree in 1999 at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg.
Dr. Milner was nominated for the award by Jodi Tamen, one of the four good Samaritan donors who stepped forward to donate a kidney to a complete stranger, helping to launch the Pay-It-Forward program in March 2010.
“Dr. Milner’s passion is not solely focused on Loyola patients. He is concerned about patients all across the country,” said Tamen, whose kidney was removed at Loyola and flown to a recipient in Los Angeles in May 2010. “He has stated he will not stop his mission until all people are off the waiting list.”
Others nominated for the award this year include:
Karen Hurd, service representative, Subspecialty Medicine, Loyola Outpatient Center
Amy Luke, PhD., assistant professor, Department of Preventive Medicine & Epidemiology, Stritch
Garry Kennebrew, third-year medical student, Stritch
Tina Lamb, credentialing coordinator, Faculty Clinical Operations
Cornelia Pope, patient-care technician, North Riverside
Patricia Scafuri, RN, Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center