Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of Transplantation, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Dr. Henderson’s background in law, ethics, health policy and management support her research into the health outcomes of live kidney donors and transplant patients. She is a national organ transplant law and policy expert and actively develops policy and guidance related to the donation and transplantation of organs from living donors to recipients in the United States. Dr. Henderson was recently elected to the 2017-2018 Board of Directors for the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).
1. What is your connection to donation?
I’m connected to donation and transplant personally and professionally. I’m a research scientist at Johns Hopkins specializing in live donor follow up and mHealth innovations related to live organ donation. Additionally, I’m a living donor myself. I donated my kidney to my cousin, Marc, on July 10, 2009.
2. Has your experience as a living donor and a donor family member impacted your career?
Yes, absolutely. I hadn’t planned on a career in research science–until I saw what the wait was like for my cousin, and how much it mattered to our family that he could be saved by organ donation and transplantation. I was a law student when I gave, and I took my knowledge of law and ethics into my PhD program and research focusing on transplantation.
3. How would you describe your job and your work in the Epidemiology Research Group in Organ Transplantation at Johns Hopkins (ERGOT)?
At ERGOT, our work is focused on helping every patient receive the transplant they need. We’re also deeply motivated by the compassion and empathy of live donors, deceased donors, and donor families. It’s a tremendous gift of life and we want to maximize every opportunity to save lives. My own work focuses on the development of mobile health technology, living kidney donor follow-up and organ transplant policy.
4. How has your research impacted your own personal ideas about organ, eye, and tissue donation?
Being a part of this community has shown me so much about the resilience of people facing adversity, whether that’s around their own health, the health of someone they love, or losing someone they love. I am constantly inspired to do more, work harder, and be better–the mission we serve together is a really powerful compass. I just want to help people waiting, and show gratitude for all donation in my work.
5. You’ve recently been working on raising awareness for HIV+ positive donation. What do you wish people knew about that?
I wish every person living with HIV knew that they can legally register to be an organ donor, and give the gift of life to someone waiting! I also wish that every hospital knew that referring every potential donor with HIV is just as important as any other referral call they make.
6. You’re about to celebrate your one-year anniversary at Johns Hopkins–congratulations! What is your favorite thing about Maryland so far?
As a Midwest girl, I love now living close to the water!
7. How does your law degree impact the work you do in transplantation?
My law degree has helped me become really comfortable with transplantation policy, as organ donation and transplantation is one of the most regulated areas of healthcare.
8. What does it mean to you to be a living donor? How has it changed your outlook on life?
Being a living donor has made me so much more aware of how I take care of myself. If I’m healthy, I can work hard and have a full, healthy life. I can definitely read the labels on food at the grocery store now (sodium is everywhere, people!) and I also hug my cousin really hard when we visit. Those are two important changes in my life!
9. What advice would you give to someone considering living donation?
I would tell a person considering living donation to ask lots of questions of their trusted healthcare providers. Never hesitate to ask! And get information from other trusted resources, like Johns Hopkins (and our recently launched app, Kidney Space!).
10. What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
I used to be a pretty good swimmer and even taught swim lessons!