What Makes This Program No. 1 in the Nation for Living Donor Pediatric Kidney Transplants?

Dr. Daniel Ranch Explains How University Health Transplant Institute Provides Hope to Their Pediatric Patients

A child in need of a life-saving kidney transplant faces a prolonged wait for an organ from a deceased donor.1 While on the national waiting list, their health may deteriorate, negatively impacting their overall development, growth, and bodily functions, underscoring the critical need for programs centered on living donor transplants.1,2

Recognizing this, physicians and families are turning to living donor transplants, especially for pediatric cases where time is crucial. In contrast to deceased donor transplants, identifying a living donor for a child may help them receive the needed kidney within mere months.1 This may likely mean avoiding dialysis, which is time intensive and can interfere with school and important peer socialization.1,2

But the benefits don’t stop there. For pediatric patients, living donor transplants provide a host of additional advantages. First and foremost, improved genetic matching between the child and a living donor may reduce the risk of rejection.3 Additionally, living donor kidneys generally function immediately. They also last longer – with an average lifespan of 15 to 20 years compared to 10 to 15 years for deceased donor kidneys.4 Finally, they allow donors, recipients, and their families to schedule the transplant in advance,3 enabling them to better prepare, logistically, medically, and emotionally.

As summarized by Baid-Agrawal and Frei, “… the benefits of living donor transplantation—compared with all forms of deceased donor transplantation—have been well recognized. Use of living donors is associated with better graft and patient survival rates and a reduction in the time patients spend on dialysis. The half-life of renal allografts from living donors is 21.6 years, compared with 13.8 years for deceased donor organs.”5

The nation’s No. 1 program for pediatric living donor kidney transplants

University Health Transplant Institute has made a name for itself as the leader in pediatric living donor kidney transplants. Ranking first in the nation in 2022, they closed out the year having performed more pediatric kidney transplants from living donors than any other transplant program in the country.1

Their pediatric transplant team is comprised of a multidisciplinary group of specialists committed to providing highly skilled care for children diagnosed with advanced kidney disease. And their unparalleled experience leads to unmatched expertise. In terms of volume, 2022 was a particularly exceptional year, with the Transplant Institute performing its largest number of living donor transplants for adult and pediatric kidney patients as well as the most ever for adult liver patients. Moreover, every pediatric liver transplant also came from a living donor.1

University Health Transplant Institute: Life-saving transplant stats

  • 10 children received kidneys from living donors via the Transplant Institute in 2022—more than double the number in 2021—outperforming other living donor kidney pediatric programs in the U.S.1
  • 742 total pediatric and adult living donor kidney transplants performed since 1985.6
  • 344 pediatric kidney transplants have been performed since 1988.6
  • Nearly 6,000 patients in total have received life-saving transplants

With the ability to help an increasing number of pediatric patients, more families and physicians than ever are putting their trust in the Transplant Institute. With good reason: University Health Transplant Institute has a 100% one-year patient and graft survival rate, ranking above the expected and national averages.6

In the crucial measure of time to transplant, the institute’s rate of pediatric kidney transplant is faster than the national average. Transplant rate ratio is a measure of how quickly candidates undergo transplant. At 175, the Transplant Institute’s rate far exceeds the national rate of 52.6

For patients, it’s not just about the volume and outcomes data. They benefit from the institute’s genuine efforts to help care for patients and their families as human beings. To this end, the Transplant Institute employs bilingual staff and provides dual-language educational materials to communicate health information most effectively. They also support multiple charitable organizations that help cover expenses for everyday healthcare and household needs to further assist patients on their transplant journey.

A proven solution for identifying potential donors

Attributing to the institute’s efficiency and success in identifying living donors, significant credit goes to the innovative Champion for Life program. This initiative elevates a child’s likelihood of finding a donor by appointing a living donor champion – an adult family member or friend who agrees to help manage a campaign.7

Specifically, the living donor champion spreads the word about the child’s need for a living donor, leveraging their network of friends, family and contacts. This includes strategically sharing the child’s story on social media, distributing materials and speaking at social gatherings to generate widespread awareness. To empower the living donor champion in their vital role, the transplant institute provides comprehensive marketing support, including a training session, where designated champions gain valuable insights and skills to enhance their ability to advocate effectively on behalf of the patient.

Transplant Institute Chief Administrator Jennifer Milton can easily pinpoint why the program has been successful. “Most Americans do not want to share news of bad health and are reluctant to ask for help,” she explained. “The Champion for Life program works to remove that obstacle by finding the patient a champion, then giving them the tools, training and empowerment to share the patient’s story. People respond. They just step forward.”

The institute’s Medical Director of Pediatric Kidney Transplantation, Daniel Ranch, MD, MBA, is another strong proponent of the Champion for Life program, having seen its effects firsthand. “Our program has fostered a culture of making a substantial effort to find living donors for all of our patients, believing that this will give them the best chance at a long and healthy life,” he said.

And it works. When her kidneys began to fail, 15-year-old Gwyn DeLeon used techniques she learned through the Champion for Life program to share her need for a donor with her hometown newspaper in Devine, Texas. The results were astounding.

“Gwyn DeLeon, one of our stellar young living kidney transplant recipients, is a prime example of how our Champion for Life program helps these kids,” remarked Ranch. “When her hometown discovered her story, over a hundred people signed up to be tested as potential donors.”

After receiving her transplant in November of 2022, DeLeon is looking forward to a healthy future.

Give your patients the best chance for success: Connect them with the country’s top program for pediatric living donor kidney transplants. Refer a Patient


  1. University Health leads the nation in living donor kidney transplants for children. University Health. Accessed December 11, 2023.
  2. Kidney transplant in children: Preparing, types, surgery, and life after. American Kidney Fund. Updated January 3, 2023. Accessed December 11, 2023.
  3. Understanding living donation. United Network for Organ Sharing. Accessed December 11,2023.
  4. Types of living donor kidney transplant. American Kidney Fund. Updated March 28, 2022. Accessed December 11, 2023.
  5. Baid-Agrawal, S., Frei, U. Living donor renal transplantation: recent developments and perspectives. Nat Rev Nephrol 3, 31–41 (2007).
  6. 2023 Pediatric Kidney Transplant (report). University Health. Published July 6, 2023.Accessed December 11, 2023. https://www.srtr.org/transplant-centers/interactive-report?center=TXUC&type=TX1&organ=ki
  7. Champion for Life. University Health. Accessed December 11, 2023.
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