5 Upstate Individuals Touted for Organ Donation Efforts

September 17, 2009

Five upstate New York health care providers whose support of organ donation is considered exemplary were honored Sept. 15 during Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network’s second annual Organ Donation Collaborative regional conference.

The inaugural John Stapleton SpiritAward recognized individuals whose spirit has been infectious in the support of organ donation, said Rob Kochik, executive director of Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network, the region’s organ procurement organization that has offices in both Syracuse and Rochester. 

The educational conference, held at the Holiday Inn in Waterloo, brought together doctors, nurses, chaplains, social workers and other health care professionals to establish best practices in area hospitals in identifying and referring potential organ donors, as well as caring for organ donors and their families. Conference guests also heard from patients awaiting organ transplant, the family of an organ donor, and an organ transplant recipient.

Honored with the John Stapleton SpiritAward were:

  • Donna Ferris, M.S., R.N., unit manger of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse. Ferris was instrumental in initiating a Donor Council at her hospital in early 2009 and has provided support and assistance in coordinating six organ recoveries so far this year;
  • Jean Marie Jongen, a chaplain based at Unity Hospital in Rochester. Jongen has wholeheartedly supported providing the option of organ donation to donors and their families and asks to be called in whenever FLDRN is working with a donor family at her hospital.
  • David Landsberg, M.D., an intensivist at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse. Landsberg makes himself available 24 hours a day to provide assistance to FLDRN coordinators to optimize the gifts of each donor;
  • Julius “Gene” Latorre, M.D., director of Neurocritical Care Services at University Hospital in Syracuse and co-chair of the Donor Council. He was  instrumental in updating the brain death policy and educating other physicians about the protocol;
  • Richard Padula, FLDRN director of operations. Padula was recognized for his dedication and tireless efforts to help coordinate donations throughout the 20-county region.

The John Stapleton SpiritAward was created in honor of Liverpool resident John Stapleton, who was hospitalized at the University of Rochester Medical Center for more than a year as he awaited a heart transplant. He received a donor heart in April 2009 but unfortunately suffered a stroke soon after. He passed away in July 2009.

Stapleton’s enthusiasm for life and his endless optimism positively affected physicians, nurses and other patients who were experiencing the process of transplantation – really everyone who met him. His daily routine of sending out e-mails to friends and family, reminding them of how good life is as long as you are alive, lifted up those who were worried about Stapleton’s health.

His exercise routine, too – walking six or seven miles each day up and down the hospital corridors – provided inspiration for all who witnessed it. He also spread the message about the gift of life that organ donation provides, sending out e-mails to those he knew, submitting letters to the editor of local newspapers, and doing many media interviews in both Rochester and Syracuse to raise awareness. Last year Stapleton attended the FLDRN conference in Waterloo to talk about his life; this year and every year he will be remembered through the award.


Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network is affiliated with the University of Rochester Medical Center, coordinating organ donation in 20 counties with a population of 2.4 million and serving 38 hospitals in the Finger Lakes region, central and northern New York.

For Media Inquiries:
Karin Christensen
(585) 275-1311
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