After receiving a double lung transplant in 2014, Dollar Tree founder and CEO Macon Brock and his wife, Joan, donated $2 million to the Cleveland Clinic to create an endowed chair for lung transplant research and education.

Marie Budev, DO, MPH, who directs the Cleveland Clinic’s world-renowned Lung and Heart-Lung Transplant Program, is the inaugural chair holder.

Dr. Budev’s transplant program made history in 2009 by reaching a world record for the highest number of lung transplants in a year—159—she says. With a new name being added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes, the program’s services are very much in demand. This is an edited transcript of our conversation.

What’s it like to be the medical director of the Lung and Heart-Lung Transplant Program at Cleveland Clinic?

Successful transplants are the most rewarding aspect of my job because it’s like a rebirth for these patients. As director of the program, I still remain very clinically oriented. I get to see patients almost every day.

What’s involved with your role as the Inaugural Macon and Joan Brock endowed chair holder?

A portion of the $2 million we were awarded will be released each year and will be devoted to research. I’ve already begun using some of the monies to find the right groups to talk to about transplants for populations that may not typically have access due to antibodies or difficulty matching with donors.

As the endowed chair holder, I’m looking forward to gathering and disseminating knowledge of the challenges we face, including post-transplant rejection and the need to increase organ donation.

What has been one of your biggest challenges as director of the program?

So many patients are well-deserving of a transplant, but having the finances to transplant is challenging. I’m encouraged that the Affordable Care Act has helped more people become insured, but there are still great disparities in access to health care.

Further efforts regarding organ donation are needed because we can’t transplant if people don’t donate. We need more donors, and that starts with education.

She was just looking forward to putting her grandson on the school bus. It’s been five years since her transplant and she’s put four grandkids on the school bus.”

What can fellow physicians do to help?

Organ donation is an important subject to talk about at the primary care level. It can be incorporated into discussions you have with patients about advanced directives, power of attorney, and driving safety.

It’s not just the physician’s job, though—it truly takes a village. My patients often feel they owe me a debt of gratitude, and I tell them to go out to community groups and talk about how their lives have changed. If you inspire one person to become an organ donor, that person could ultimately save seven lives.

How do you stay motivated?

My patients keep me from burning out. They keep me coming back every day.

One patient told me when I’d transplanted her that she was just looking forward to putting her grandson on the school bus. It’s been five years since her transplant, and she’s been able to put four grandkids on the school bus in that time.

Listening to you and partnering in your care are at the heart of the holistic, empathic approach to medicine practiced by DOs, or Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine. DOs are trained to promote the body’s natural tendency toward health and self-healing.

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