Home > Lisa Strother Upsher Is Recognized as a Dignity & Respect Champion for Using Community Education to Defeat the Negative Myths of Organ Donation

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Dispelling Myths & Triumphing Over Fears

Lisa Strother Upsher Is Recognized as a Dignity & Respect Champion for Using Community Education to Defeat the Negative Myths of Organ Donation


Lisa Strother Upsher, the Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program Director at the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE), is faced with lots of opposition, everyday. It’s her job to eventually sway this opposition, by presenting a good argument for organ donation.


Paula K. Davis, herself a Dignity & Respect Champion for her work with diversity recruitment at the University of Pittsburgh says, ”Lisa must navigate people’s  faith, tradition, beliefs about their very being, and their perceptions of death and dying in outlining why they should consider registering as donors.”


“People can’t see past the misperceptions and fears of being an organ donor”, Upsher states. She quells these fears and raises awareness by conducting ongoing community based education presentations.  Some people need to be approached six or seven times; through presentations at work, school, community, and even church before they understand the value of being an organ donor. Upsher has the tenacity to do this, and she developed it early on.

She was born in West Virginia, the baby of 13 children, seven other girls and five boys, where you had to be tenacious, just to be heard. A self proclaimed “minister’s kid”, she grew up in a small but diverse area of Italian, Polish and African-American ancestry.  Upsher feels that growing up in a small community where “everyone knows everyone”, provided her with a safety zone to develop into who she is.


Upsher has been working at CORE for five years. She has always worked in jobs related to health disparity in the multi-cultural community. She spent 15 years as a field manager for Healthy Start, Inc., another non-profit, where she developed and trained community outreach workers. At CORE she finds her work not only rewarding, but challenging in her everyday interactions with people.


“When you treat others the way they want to be treated, then you make people feel valued and respected and you can change everything for the greater good”, Upsher states. She continues, “A greater diversity of donors can increase access to transplantation for everyone.”   Although people of different races frequently match one another; compatible blood types and tissue markers, which are critical qualities for matching, are more likely to be found among members of the same ethnicity.


Paula K. Davis, who nominated Upsher as a Dignity & Respect Champion says, ”Underrepresented individuals suffer disproportionately from illness that may result in the need for transplantation. Discussions of what may happen to our bodies after dying is very uncomfortable. Lisa must discuss the benefit to the living while respecting the individual.”


Lisa Strother Upsher does this as she communicates to people the importance of being an organ donor and as she educates people against the myths and misperceptions of organ donation. “The number one negative myth is that if you put ‘Organ Donor’ on your license, people are going to let you die.” Upsher states.  “People need to be made aware that this is an irrational fear. Sometimes they need to hear it numerous times from institutions they respect, and places they trust, before they realize this.”, she adds.


Her job is to educate people how untrue this fear is. And she will do just that, no matter how many times it takes.


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness initiative designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect. A Dignity & Respect Champion is someone―nominated by a co-worker, family member, or friend―who embraces diversity, embodies compassion, and demonstrates mutual respect. For more information and to take the Dignity & Respect Pledge, visit dignityandrespect.org.





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