“We’ve saved thousands and thousands of lives.”

Jack Lynch and Jerry Anderson photo with text: “We’ve saved thousands and thousands of lives.”

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“We’ve saved thousands and thousands of lives.”

Long before established procedures and formalized networks, Jerry Anderson, past president/CEO of Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network, and Jack Lynch, retired Senior Advisor at Gift of Hope, were trailblazers in managing organ and tissue donation in Illinois. Among their many accomplishments was finding ways to reach out to the Black community.

Jerry was using his background in business at Blue Cross Blue Shield when Dr. James Wolf, director of transplantation surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, convinced him to develop an organ procurement organization. “I had no background in healthcare,” Jerry said. “But it was a great opportunity to be involved in something good…and an opportunity to start up a new organization.”

Early in his career, Jack was working as a pharmaceutical sales rep for an anti-rejection drug. His passion for organ donation was also inspired by Dr. Wolf, after he wrote an article for the Chicago Tribune. “He talked about the low rate of transplants among African Americans, and he didn’t see that ever changing,” Jack said. “I took exception to that…what gave me energy were folks who said it couldn’t be done.”

Jack decided then and there that he would have an impact on people who looked like him. His own on-the-job training was spent at Cook County Hospital to personally interact with families after a family member had passed. “I just gave those families the opportunity to talk,” he said. “There’s a stigma of being talked at instead of with.”

These long-time colleagues took advantage of every opportunity to promote donor registration. Jack used a connection to contact Michael Jordan, who agreed to film a public service announcement. They also recall the important impact of Walter Payton, who announced publicly that he needed a liver transplant. Payton’s wife and children became important advocates for organ donation and Gift of Hope.

Jerry retired in 2013 and serves on the Board of Directors for Gift of Hope. Jack retired in April 2023 and still fields several calls a week from people wanting to understand the donation process and how to place their names on a waiting list.

“We understood what needed to be done,” said Jerry. “We’re a team and together we’ve saved thousands and thousands of lives.”

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