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Midwest Transplant Network surpasses expectations to save and enhance lives in 2023

One organ donor can save eight lives; a tissue donor can enhance 100 lives.

In 2023, Midwest Transplant Network set a new level of achievement for the number of organs recovered for transplantation, organ donors, eye and tissue donors, and laboratory tests performed as part of organ, eye and tissue donation.

MTN, a not-for-profit organ procurement organization (OPO), achieved 988 lifesaving organs for transplantation. The gifts came from 363 donor heroes. MTN also recovered gifts of eye and tissue from 1,399 donors.

“What we achieved at Midwest Transplant Network in 2023 reflects the commitment of the staff who do the work every day to support organ donation and transplantation. The work is hard, and happens in countless ways, but we are all dedicated to the mission of enhancing and saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation” said Jan Finn, RN, MSN, President & CEO, Midwest Transplant Network.

MTN’s award-winning histocompatibility lab performed 36,224 tests assessing blood work for potential matches for organ, tissue and bone marrow transplantation, as well as post-transplant monitoring.

“MTN’s professional laboratory staff performs thousands of tests in support of organ transplants for patients in our community, as well as patients across the country. Each year, the laboratory’s service grows as we continue to provide exceptional quality and expert consultation services 24/7 to transplant centers,” said Christina Bishop, MT(ASCP), Ph.D., F(ACHI), Chief of Laboratory Services.


An Upward Trend

MTN’s performance metric increases reflect a national upward trend for the organ transplant system.

The United Network for Organ Sharing reported that across the country, clinical workers performed more than 46,000 lifesaving transplants in 2023.

Although organ transplants are increasing nationally and locally, the waiting list grows. More than 100,000 people around the country need a lifesaving organ transplant — with approximately 460 of those people living in Kansas and 2,000 in Missouri.

2023: A Significant Year for Saving Lives
Through MTN, the generosity of donor heroes and their families touched the lives of people in need:

  • 363 donor heroes shared the gift of life, resulting in 988* lifesaving organ transplants.
    (*Excluding organs donated for research)
  • 1,399 cornea and tissue donor heroes saved and enhanced lives.
  • MTN’s lab performed 36,224 transplant-supporting tests ranging from blood counts, urinalysis, basic chemistry panels and more.
  • In its first full year of service, MTN’s Donor Recovery and Surgical Unit (DCU) cared for 114 donor hero patients resulting in 364 lifesaving transplants.

“The DCU allows us to continue specialized care for donor hero patients while maximizing their gifts of donation. The DCU also enables us to support our hospital partners by freeing up resources such as intensive care unit beds, operating rooms and medical staff needed to care for donor patients,” said Lori Markham, RN, MSN, CCRN, Vice President & Chief Clinical Officer.

At a Glance

Incorporated in 1973, Midwest Transplant Network facilitates organ, eye and tissue donation in partnership with hospitals and other professional partners to give hope and share life. MTN’s service area is the state of Kansas and western two-thirds of Missouri, with its central office located in Westwood, Kansas, and satellite offices in Wichita, Kansas, and Columbia and Joplin, Missouri. MTN commemorated 50 years of service in 2023.


MTN Aviation: Serving the Mission through Flight

The grrrrrrrrr of a small plane speeding down a runway for takeoff; a shrill whistle and the clack, clack, clack of a freight train rolling down the tracks in the near distance; the whirling, choppy sound of an aircraft unseen.

These are the sounds of the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City on a Wednesday morning, but the office of Midwest Transplant Network’s Aviation department is quiet. Inside the hangar, a plane sits at the ready to serve the mission of organ donation.

It’s 9 a.m. MTN Pilots Tom Carnahan and Tim Overman greet Genny Ly, a new Organ Procurement Coordinator, to show her the plane – an orientation to prepare for the moment she’ll be on a team that flies out for an organ recovery case.

Carnahan demonstrates how to open and close the door to board the plane, safety features inside the cabin, how to open the emergency exit and more. Walking around the plane, Carnahan points out areas along the wings to be careful; at the rear of the plane, he opens a small compartment revealing a cargo space for bags and equipment.

The plane, a Citation C3J+, has two seats in the front for pilots and eight seats in back. Most are window seats.

After touring the plane and the office, Overman and Carnahan chat with Ly before she goes to MTN’s headquarters to continue the day.


Mission Critical

“We are the only OPO in the country that owns and operates its aircraft. There are a few others who have a dedicated aircraft; however, they are managed by a charter service or other outside agency. The pilots and staff who work in MTN’s Aviation department are actual employees of MTN. MTN as an organization is also registered with the FAA as Part 91,” explained Lori Markham, RN, MSN, CCRN, Vice President & Chief Clinical Officer, MTN.

“Midwest Transplant Network is the sixth largest OPO by geography. With our aircraft, we’re able to respond quickly to donor hospitals anywhere in our service area. Because we can mobilize quickly, we are able to support our hospital partners, donor families and recover organs efficiently to maximize the gifts. Forty percent of overall donor patients are outside of the Kansas City metro, so having our own plane and pilots are critical.

“Otherwise, we’d rely on ground transportation – which could take hours – or we’d have to rely on charter or plane services that may not be readily available when needed.”


Being an MTN Pilot

Overman and Carnahan are two of nine pilots at MTN. It’s a fully staffed department, and both agree that having a full team makes a difference in work-life balance.

“It helps to be able to share the workload. We can make connections with each other, talk through needs, and it also means that the team can provide MTN full service.”

There are always two pilots on flights to transport a team and bring them back to Kansas City. The pilots know there is a time sensitivity with organs. The flight prep to get ready for a case includes weather and radars, wind speed and visibility, weight and balance for the plane to operate safely, filing a flight plan, determining alternate airports in case they can’t reach the actual destination and more.

Modern technology has made a difference in simplifying flight plans. “There were a lot of phone calls back in the day. Now we have GPS, digital apps and other tools, including the phone.”

Lemoine Davis, MBA, PMP, Manager, Aviation, leads the department.

“The MTN Aviation mission is ‘To provide safe, professional and efficient air transportation in response to MTN needs.’ Without the department, we would be strained to service our region as timelines to respond would be significantly increased or the cost to operate would increase as charters and ground transportation would be our only options.

“The training the pilots undergo regarding organ donation is informational, not technical. We provide a broad overview of the donation process and expand upon the areas they can, or might, influence. It gives the Aviation team an understanding of the importance of their role, the hazards associated with their cargo, and a general overview of how the aircraft is utilized,” said Davis.


Flexible and Responsive

Each day is different for staff at MTN, including pilots.

“A typical workday for our pilots includes coming on shift, either morning or evening, and waiting to be activated to fly within our service area. If during their shift they are not called out to fly, they could be fulfilling administrative duties or volunteering for an event within the organization. Our pilots are not required to work from the hangar as long as they can adhere to the two-hour callout timeline,” said Davis.

“The team who flies on the aircraft when transporting an organ can vary. Typically, we are flying the organ procurement team that includes an organ procurement coordinator, organ procurement preservation specialist, an organ procurement technician and/or family services staff.”

He described a recent fly-out to Joplin, Missouri, for a recovery.

“The pilots on shift flew the team out in the evening, waited on the ground for a few hours while the procedure took place, and later returned to Kansas City with the team who’d successfully recovered organs. They also brought back two additional passengers whose shift had ended.

“Overall, this took roughly four hours, which would’ve been significantly longer if they had to travel by car, or it would’ve cost more if MTN had to use charter services.”


MTN Aviation Fast Facts

1973 – Midwest Organ Bank created an in-house Aviation department at the urging of the Federal Aviation Administration to “ensure the safety of staff members and transplantable organs.”

2023 – Midwest Transplant Network is marking 50 years of Aviation and is the only organ procurement organization in the U.S. that owns and operates an aircraft. MTN staff can mobilize quickly to anywhere within the service area to support hospital partners and recover organs to maximize the gift of life.

  • Number of pilots: Five full-time and four part-time pilots
  • Range of experience: 8-48 years
  • Average experience: 20 years
  • Aviation career experience: military, private charter, private company, medical evacuation, regional airlines, flying bush planes in Alaska, or flying retired military aircraft.
  • Flight hours: Approximately 7.5 hours a week or 30 hours per month.
  • MTN service area: 150,000 sq miles covering the state of Kansas and western Missouri


A man standing next to the open door of a plane and talking to a woman.

Tom Carnahan, MTN pilot, and Genny Ly, organ procurement coordinator, stand outside the door of MTN’s aircraft during an orientation. The hangar door is open to a view of the downtown Kansas City skyline.

A small aircraft in an airplane hangar.

MTN’s airplane in the hangar, ready and waiting for its next flyout.

A pilot sits at the controls of a small plane.

Tim Overman, MTN pilot, sits at the controls of the plane to show the various screens of radar and other details necessary while flying a plane.

Pilots standing in formation in front of a plane owned by Midwest Transplant Network.

Midwest Transplant Network pilots in front of the MTN plane at the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City, Missouri.

All Heart: One Recipient’s Journey Back to Health

Each selfless gift given by an organ, eye and/or tissue donor has a true ripple effect: on patients in need of transplant, on the donor’s family, on those who provide care for the donor, on those who care for the recipient and far beyond.

In honor of American Heart Month, we asked heart recipient and volunteer Ambassador Brian Pitts to share his transplant journey. Brian’s powerful and inspiring story is one of so many that Midwest Transplant Network and our partners are fortunate to know.

Watch now!

MTN Celebrates 50 Years of Saving and Enhancing Lives


At the start of each year, Midwest Transplant Network reflects on the work we did to save lives with dignity and compassion in the previous 12 months, ensuring a focus on better serving donor heroes, their families and those on the waitlist. Our look back at 2022 is particularly significant as we celebrate our organization’s 50th anniversary of saving and enhancing lives.

We share the graphic below in honor of our 2022 donor heroes and the lives affected by their generous gifts.

Graphically designed image to highlight MTN's 2022 success using data. The background is purple with descriptions written in white and numbers shown in green.For a look even further back, MTN has added a historical timeline to our website that highlights key milestones in our 50 years of saving and enhancing lives. From our incorporation as Midwest Organ Bank in 1973 through the medical advances of the 1980s to improved technology in the 2000s and on through today — Midwest Transplant Network celebrates our past while looking forward to the innovations and improvements awaiting us in the future.

We invite you all to help us celebrate our 50th year by continuing to advocate for the importance of organ, eye and tissue donation. Encourage your family and friends to consider joining the organ, eye and tissue donor registry. And remind them to speak with their loved ones about their decision to be a donor. Engage with us on social media and attend our events, spreading the crucial message of giving hope and sharing life.

Our community is stronger because of collaboration with partners in advancing our lifesaving and life-enhancing mission. We thank you all for supporting us throughout the years!





Administrative Assistant Spotlight

Photo collage image of the eight women who work to support MTN as Administrative Assistants.


As we continue highlighting departments throughout Midwest Transplant Network, we hear now from our talented Administrative Assistant team that is behind so much of the organization’s success.

MTN Administrative Assistant staff members:

  • Melissa Anderson, Administrative Assistant (IT, Community Education, Donor Family Aftercare)
  • Kathy Brown, Administrative Assistant (Wichita and Columbia Regional Offices)
  • Rikki Burke, Administrative Assistant (Organ Procurement, Tissue Services, Donation Services, Family Services)
  • Susan Hubbard, Executive Assistant to CEO
  • Brande’ Johnson, Administrative Assistant to Senior Directors
  • Kim Martin, Customer Relations and Communications Coordinator
  • Terra Price, Administrative Assistant (Hospital Services, Laboratory Services, Quality, Education)
  • Heather Sics, Administrative Assistant to Executive Management


Briefly describe what Administrative Assistants do.

MTN Administrative Assistants are responsible for the daily administrative support of 10 unique departments; the executive and senior leadership teams; MTN regional offices; and customer relations for all incoming calls, visitors, patients, vendors and guests for the organization. Our team is involved in all aspects of MTN’s operations to support our mission of saving and enhancing lives through organ, eye and tissue donation. Our admins schedule and support all organizational meetings; maintain calendar awareness and provide meeting and specific project support to leadership; coordinate symposiums, conferences and events; plan travel and deliver monthly expense reporting, in addition to numerous additional activities.Admins are often the first point of contact for incoming requests to the organization. The team takes pride in working and engaging with our customers — whether they be donor family members, patients, partners, vendors or visitors of MTN.

What internal departments and roles do Administrative Assistants work with?

Our team supports 10 departments, three offices, 10 senior leaders and initiatives throughout the organization.Additionally, Administrative Assistant staff members support several MTN governing bodies as well as Strategic Planning and specialty committees, including:

  • MTN Governing and Advisory boards
  • MTN Governance, Executive, Finance and Compensation committees
  • Five Strategic Planning committees and additional subcommittees
  • Two organizational committees

How do you support your teammates when you all support such different teams and types of work?

“For me, it’s a matter of jumping in where I can. If the help is needed, be there, or ask in the midst of the work.  There’s always something that can be done.”
Brande’ Johnson

“I support my teammates in all their different roles by making sure they each have what they need to get their jobs done, and I love finding ways I can make their jobs easier and more efficient.”
Kathy Brown


Tell us about some of the events your department plans and creates for MTN.

“I support our Donor Family Aftercare and Community Engagement & Public Relations departments, which host the majority of MTN’s events. One of my favorite MTN events is our annual Donate Life Legacy Walk. My first Legacy Walk was our second year, and seeing this event grow from 250 to over 1,000 attendees has been amazing. I love that this is the one event where all with connections to donation come to honor a loved one, share a story, celebrate with one another and spread the message of organ, eye and tissue donation.” — Melissa Anderson

The Administrative Assistant team participates in the planning and execution of nearly all MTN events — which is a significant undertaking, with more than 50 events held annually. Administrative staff members work in partnership with executive leadership and various departments to produce both internal and external events that reach a variety of audiences. These audiences include members of our communities who champion organ donation; colleagues, hospital partners and clinicians who contribute to the fields of organ, eye and tissue donation and transplantation; family members and supporters of our organ, eye and tissue donor heroes; MTN staff members and volunteers; and MTN governing bodies, to name a few.


What is the one thing you’d want to tell someone who knows nothing about your work?

Every day is completely different. We are the team that seamlessly makes sure everything is right where you need it to be, when you need it. It’s the classic image of the iceberg: the work you see above water and the massive amount that is contained below. The more flawless an event comes across to the audience, the more work that was put in behind the scenes to create that environment.


What inspires you or gives you a sense of fulfillment about your work in support of MTN’s mission?

“The opportunity to be a small part of fulfilling the organization’s mission by being of service to others.”
Brande’ Johnson

“It gives me much pride to know that my efforts are going into saving lives rather increasing profit.”
Susan Hubbard

“I am inspired when I hear successful donor stories and stories of collaboration between MTN and the hospital staff.”
Kathy Brown


Why should people say “yes” to organ, eye and tissue donation?

A YES to donation is one of the most selfless and generous things a person can do. We all have an opportunity to create a ripple effect and touch the lives of so many. By saying “yes,” you provide hope to the thousands of people who are awaiting a transplant.

Anything else you’d like to add?

The Administrative Assistant team is growing as MTN continues to grow. We are currently looking for a passionate and experienced Administrative Assistant to support our Sr. Directors of Strategy and Information Technology, and our Chief of Laboratory Services. If you are interested in joining an exceptional team at a critically important, mission-based organization, we would love to speak with you! View the full job description and apply today.


Community Partner Feature – St. James United Methodist Church

When communities of faith partner with us to promote the gift of life offered through organ, eye and tissue donation, a beautiful message emerges. As our annual observance of National Donor Sabbath concludes, hear from St. James United Methodist Church’s Dr. Yvette Richards, D.Min., on her work within her community and why she is so passionate about partnering with Midwest Transplant Network.

Community Partner Feature – Hoefer Welker

When Midwest Transplant Network began planning for the creation of its Donor Care and Surgical Recovery Unit, Hoefer Welker jumped at the chance to design a facility that would honor MTN’s mission to save and enhance lives with dignity and compassion. In this video blog feature, listen to Hoefer Welker’s Diamond Bronson, Associate Vice President and Project Manager, and Patrick McCurdy, Partner and Healthcare Practice Leader, discuss their work and what inspired them in partnering with MTN.

Photo image of Ryan Stoway in a hoodie with a waterfall and wooded scenery in the background.

Donor Hero Said “Yes” to Joining the Registry at the DMV

Photo image of Ryan Stoway in a hoodie with a waterfall and wooded scenery in the background.

Ryan Stoway

In honor of National DMV Appreciation Month, we are honored to share this submitted story about donor hero Ryan Stoway, who believed so much in organ, eye and tissue donation that he enthusiastically said “yes” to joining the registry when he received his permit to drive. Our thanks to Ryan’s mother, Alexis Stoway, for sharing this beautiful story:

“Ryan was a 14-year-old boy with dreams of joining the military or following in his dad’s footsteps as an electrician. He was a born protector, helper and caregiver. He saw what most people didn’t and never hesitated to lend a hand to those who needed him. He had tremendous love for his family, and nothing was more important to him than being with his family and his friends, whom he also thought of as family. He showed such pride to be a part of each and every one of their lives.

He loved being outdoors. Fishing was a passion he shared with his Poppa, uncle and friends. He LOVED playing football! He even liked practicing and off-season training. He enjoyed learning, getting better and stronger each day. Ryan was a 6-foot, 280-pound teddy bear when he wasn’t on the football field. It was often he needed Mom time (yep — he still needed a cuddle). He pulled out the M&M’S® and put on a favorite movie of mine, ‘Top Gun’ or ‘Secretariat,’ and asked me to watch with him.

Ryan always believed in organ donation. He personally saw how organ donation saves and changes lives. When he was 5, his sister received a kidney transplant (she was 3). When he got his permit to drive, he asked the lady taking his picture to redo his permit because it didn’t say he was a donor, and he wanted it on there. When he showed his dad and me, it seemed like he was prouder to be an organ donor than he was that he had passed his test. We were so proud he made that decision all on his own.

When he was finishing his freshman year of high school, he asked me why people had to wait so long for transplants since so many people died every day. I told him not everyone was a donor. He got upset and told me that for his senior project, he was going to tell as many people as possible how organ and tissue donation changes people’s lives. In fact, his exact words were that it ‘changes families’ lives’ and ‘allows people to live a life without jerks making fun of them for being different.’ I sat stunned and cried at my teenage son’s understanding of the difference a selfless choice can make.

It was a little over a month after that conversation that he was in a tragic accident and passed away. They were unable to restart his heart, so his tissues and eyes were donated. He was able to fulfill his wish to be a donor. His sister will take every step with him for the rest of her life, as she was a recipient of one of his tendons, repairing a birth defect in her knee.

We all know Ryan was truly honored to become a donor hero to as many people as he could. I believe he dances in heaven every single time someone gets a part of him, giving them a better quality of life!”

Portrait image of Doris Agwu

Q&A with MTN Advisory Board Member Doris C. Agwu

Portrait image of Doris Agwu

Doris C. Agwu, MPH

There are countless individuals responsible for making MTN’s lifesaving mission possible: our hospital partners; licensing, treasury and Department of Revenue staff members; funeral home professionals and medical examiners; staff members; Board of Directors; volunteer Ambassadors; and beyond. Today, we’re excited to highlight one of our Advisory Board members, Doris C. Agwu, MPH, regarding her work in diversity, equity and inclusion.

Tell us briefly about the work you do as Assistant Dean for the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at UMKC School of Medicine.

In my role with senior leadership, I work with recruitment, retention, advancement, engagement, and communications and serve on our important committees and councils. It is important that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is in the framework of everything that we do because it matters in everything. So, from creating and providing DEI training to serving on selection and search committees and everything in between, I work with leadership, faculty, staff and students to ensure our strategic plan is implemented. It is important to us that we create an environment where all students can succeed, which means providing equitable resources and a sense of belonging. Additionally, this needs to be done for faculty and staff. And my office helps to do just that.

How did you come to join Midwest Transplant Network’s Board of Directors? What drew you to the organization?

I have been friends with MTN General Counsel Salama Gallimore for years. When I moved to KC a couple of years ago, she was one of the few people I knew in the area. She has always spoken so fondly about the work you all do at Midwest Transplant Network. And with my role at the school of medicine, she felt that I could bring an important perspective to the board. I researched the organization and was truly impressed and humbled by the beautiful work you all do here and incredibly moved by all the lives you’ve positively impacted. I knew this was the type of board I wanted to join.

August is a time when people in the donation and transplantation community raise awareness to save and enhance the lives of people of all races and ethnicities. (This can be recognized as National Multiethnic Donor Awareness Month.) Why is it important to you to celebrate and educate people on the importance of diversity in donation?

I think education on this is important because there is a lot of misinformation out there. Additionally, there are a lot of people who don’t have access to healthcare or have negative experiences regarding healthcare due to marginalization. I think education on the importance of diversity in donation can help shape minds and create a safer environment for learning about donation. In this world, marginalized individuals understandably can have trust issues with a lot of systems, including systems involved in donation and transplantation, so educating people can help lead to enhanced self-advocacy and understanding.

Have you or any of your loved ones been impacted by organ, eye and tissue donation and transplantation? If so, how?

Yes, I have a friend who had been waiting to receive a kidney transplant for years, and when she finally received one, it changed her whole life. She was always a positive and joyful person, but after receiving her kidney, there was a certain type of joy that illuminated from her that probably was rooted in a sense of relief and freedom. Health complications can be very scary for everyone involved, so when a loved one gets exactly what they need to make them healthier, you’re forever grateful.

What would you say to someone who is on the fence about joining the organ, eye and tissue donor registry?

Being a scientist at heart, I don’t believe there is anything I would say, but there are various questions I would ask. I’d ask if they would be willing to share why they are on the fence, what reasons are holding them back, and then I would be able to chat with them effectively and honestly about their concerns.

Sunset photo of the MTN airplane at the KC downtown airport with the skyline behind it.

MTN Aviation

Behind the scenes of organ donation, there are many moving parts that make the gift of life possible. This symphony of motion must come together in near-perfect harmony. One of the often-unseen heroes of the organ donation process within our service area is Midwest Transplant Network’s Aviation team. Ed Coleman, Aviation Manager, manages the transport of lifesaving organs as well as transplant teams from across the country and our service area.

His 38 years of experience in aviation have spanned nearly every realm of the industry. What is different about his service to MTN? It is the organizational mission. In many instances, aviation is not essential to the function of an organization. “In the business realm, if things start to drop, the first thing you do is get rid of the perks,” he said. “This isn’t a perk for us. This is an essential piece of the puzzle to make everyone’s job work.”

Like many MTN staff members, the aviation department operates mostly on an on-call basis. The schedule is demanding, but especially for parents of young children. Corporate Pilot Kelly Timmermann values her work at MTN because it ensures that her “time away from home is worthwhile”. Timmermann, a former executive officer in the A10 Squadron at Whiteman AFB, appreciates the flexibility Coleman and her aviation coworkers provide.

“Ed is usually able to get me all the days off that I need,” Timmermann said. “So, I can feel good when I come to work because things are tidy at home.”

Coleman monitors cases across the MTN service area to give his pilots ample awareness of possible flight calls. “I really appreciate that most of the time, we have a decent idea of [whether] we will be flying or not to kind of mentally prepare,” Timmermann said.

For Timmermann and Coleman, working for MTN is a great way to continue their aviation careers while facilitating the life-saving gift of organ donation. “The mission we have helps people daily,” Timmermann said. “When we go fly, it truly helps somebody. That is very validating for me.”

Now Hiring!

The MTN aviation team is currently hiring both full-time and PRN corporate pilots. If you are a licensed pilot or aviation student looking for mission-driven work for a dynamic and growing organ procurement organization, apply here.