Penn Highlands Healthcare Supports Organ Donation

CORE Task Force meets at PH Brookville

April 21, 2015

Members of the CORE Task Force who meet in Brookville

Once a month in Brookville, a special group of people get together to do something that could possibly lead to the saving of your life or the life of a loved one.

CORE, the Center of Organ Recovery & Education hosts a CORE Task Force meeting for the region. This group is working on ways to educate and promote organ donation because it saves people’s lives.

CORE is one of 58 federally designated not-for-profit organ procurement organizations in the United States. It works closely with donor families and designated health care professionals to deliver the gift of hope by coordinating the surgical recovery of organs, tissues and corneas for transplantation. CORE also helps with the computerized matching of donated organs, tissues and corneas with those who need them. 

With headquarters in Pittsburgh and an office in Charleston, W. Va., CORE oversees a region that encompasses 155 hospitals and almost six million people throughout western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Chemung County, N.Y. Among those 155 hospitals are Penn Highland Healthcare ones – Penn Highlands Brookville, Penn Highlands Clearfield, Penn Highlands DuBois and Penn Highlands Elk. 

“Penn Highlands Healthcare encourages all individuals to register to become an organ, tissue and cornea donor,” according to Dr. Gary DuGan, chief medical officer at Penn Highlands Healthcare. “Though our hospitals do not do transplants, we see the need for donation daily as our staff provides care before and after transplant procedures. We share in the anxiousness of the families before and the thankfulness given afterwards.”

What’s so special about this CORE group that meets in Brookville? It is one of several CORE oversees – with the others in Erie, Pittsburgh, Altoona and Washington - that works to educate people about the need for organ donation.

Newly formed last year, the meetings are held on the second Wednesdays of each month in the PH Brookville Education Center directly next to the PH Brookville hospital building. 

During the meetings, members can talk, connect, plan and organize events. 

For example, the group had representatives, such as Dean and Dianne Hetrick of Summerville, and Ronald and Dorothy Flick of Clarion at each Day of Dance event held by Penn Highlands Healthcare in DuBois, Brookville, St. Marys and Clearfield.

Other members, Ron and Mary Bowen of Brookville, organized a table for their son’s U.S. Army Reserves Unit in Brookville in March. The Flicks talked about attending a Mason’s event to share donor information. 

Trudy Ensminger of Curwensville, also a nurse at PH DuBois, spoke to a United Methodist Church group. She shared how she went from almost dying with the need for a lung transplant to a Zumba instructor today.

The group members receive on-going training from a CORE professional, Colleen Sullivan, on how to spread the word about the need for organ donation. 

And not everyone needs to go out and speak publically. Any help or support is appreciated from anyone who wants to join the group.

Why do these people care so much? Because most of them have been directly touched by organ donation. Most are recipients of lungs, liver, hearts and kidneys who wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for someone else’s selflessness.  One is a living donor who gave his brother a kidney. Others are family members of recipients who appreciate what others have done. 

Debbie Thomas, chief nursing officer PH Brookville, attends the meetings. “I am a supporter of organ donation,” she said. She has a nephew who may need a kidney transplant and a cousin who passed away who donated her organs to help so many lead fuller lives.

“Whether organ, tissue and cornea donation or transplantation has personally touched your life, the lives of those around you or you simply believe it is the right thing to do – by being a member of CORE’s Brookville Task Force, you have the potential to help so many,” Sullivan said. 

“People have said it is good we are doing this,” Diane Hetrick of Summerville, a member, said of spreading the word. 

Penn Highlands Healthcare agrees.  “We know that at least 21 people will die each day without receiving an organ transplant,” DuGan said. “That number includes two from CORE’s service area – that’s our own backyards.”

“And the list of those waiting grows daily. At the five organ transplant hospitals served by CORE, approximately 3,000 people are waiting upon organ transplantation, and thousands more are in need of tissue or cornea transplants,” DuGan said. 

Spreading the word about the need for organ donations is important. One person can save up to eight lives. Throughout April, which is Organ Donation Awareness Month and throughout the year, people will be in the lobbies of the Penn Highlands hospitals with information, posters will be in physician offices and different events will be held within the hospital. 

Anyone who wants to help can signing up to be an organ donor by marking the “organ donor” box on the computer screen when getting a new driver’s license, or go to 

Or attend the next meeting of the CORE Brookville Task Force on Wednesday, May 13, 2015, at 100 Hospital Road, Brookville.