Meet the Experts: Independent Living Donor Advocates

Aug 27, 2020 | Kristin Eggebraaten | @keggebraaten

At Mayo Clinic, our transplant living donors are well-supported by a comprehensive team of transplant experts. One important part of the donor’s care team are the Independent Living Donor Advocates (ILDAs). The ILDAs advocate on behalf of the donors, protecting the donor’s rights and decisions. The ILDA meets with the donor during evaluation to discuss the process, surgery, risks, and benefits.

Because the ILDA is a unique aspect of the donor team, we thought you might want to meet a couple of Mayo Clinic’s Living Donor Advocates and learn more about the important job they do for us, and for YOU. Meet Margo Vandrovec, LICSW, MSW, and Linda Paltzer, LICSW, two of the ILDAs from our Minnesota Mayo Clinic. We recently asked them some questions about their role, and here’s what they had to say.

Q: Why did you choose this area of expertise?

Margo Vandrovec, LICSW, M.S.W.
Margo Vandrovec, LICSW, M.S.W.

Margo: When I began the position in 2013 it was the dual position of Living Donor Social Worker and Independent Living Donor Advocate. In 2016 the roles were separated and I became the Independent Living Donor Advocate. The opportunity to advocate for people wanting to donate and to stay with them on their journey before, during and after donation was very appealing. Caring about the donors after they donate and being available to assist them is a very important part of the process.

Linda Paltzer, LICSW.
Linda Paltzer, LICSW.

Linda: In accepting the position as Independent Living Donor Advocate (ILDA) I was fascinated by the willingness of someone to donate an organ based on their compassion for another person’s need and wanting to help them in such a selfless way.

Q: Describe your job and role on the care team.

What drives our position within the Living Donor Team in the Transplant Center is always keeping the interest of the donor as our main concern. We are separate from the recipient and their team as we do not want to become biased one way or another regarding the donor’s intent, but to ensure they are informed about the donation process, their choices within that process and the risks and the benefits of organ donation. Our position is mandated by the Organ Procurement Transplant Network (OPTN), United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) so there are standards we need to adhere to on behalf of a potential donor and donor. The Donor Advocate is able to articulate the wishes of the donor candidate to the rest of the Living Donor Team. We walk alongside them throughout the donor process including after donation.

Q: What is the best part about your work?

Unequivocally - working with the donors. It is our privilege to have the opportunity to share this life changing journey with the donors. To see their desire to try and improve another person’s quality of life come to fruition is rewarding beyond words. To be able to communicate to them how much we value their contribution or willingness to contribute to another is truly heartwarming.

Q: If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?

Our educational degrees and training are as clinic social workers so if we weren’t doing donor advocacy we would continue to be social workers in another patient need area at Mayo Clinic. It is a very challenging and rewarding profession.

Q: What are some things you wish patients would ask you?

How to best take care of themselves after donation. They need to continue to advocate for themselves going forward.

Q: What do you think are some of the most influential trends or findings in living donation, transplantation and research?

Living organ donation continues to grow especially through the paired donation program. This is likely to be helpful process to people who want to donate but are not a direct blood type match to their loved one or to the person they know is in need of an organ transplant.

Q: What will patients and families find at Mayo Clinic that will give them the best experience possible?

That’s easy and we’ll reiterate what donors have told us on a regular basis.  The donors admire the efficiency of Mayo in getting though all donation evaluation appointments and despite this efficiency they believe their individuality has not been compromised. They comment feeling well cared for and note the compassion from the many individuals they encounter. From the initial phone calls, to setting up the appointments, to meeting the desk staff when they arrive to all the various professionals on the living donor team they meet along the way, everyone has the patient’s best interest as their main objective.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging is the ongoing education of the role of ILDA and what that means. We want to help people fulfill their desire to be a living donor and do that safely. The Transplant Center is a very busy place, and we are fortunate to have added Christina Coyle, LICSW, to the ILDA team this year.

Q: What are your passions outside of work, and what do you do to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

We are passionate about our families, and we are both active and involved parents.

Margo: I’m an avid reader and enjoy hiking in the area state parks with family and friends and biking. Prior to the pandemic, I enjoyed traveling and hope to do that again soon.

Linda: I enjoy yoga and gardening and spending time with friends.


If you are interested in being a living donor at Mayo Clinic, you can find out more information on our toolkit pages.

Have you met any of the ILDAs at Mayo Clinic or other hospitals? How was their care integrated into your evaluation?


Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Transplant blog.

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