Optimizing Organ Transplants: The Gift of Life (GOL) During Pandemics

Capstone Summary:

Organ transplantation is a life-saving practice that requires extensive coordination and communication for timely and safe care during a pandemic. The rise of viral diseases, such as “HIV in the late 1980s/early 1990s, SARS-CoV, West Nile Virus, pandemic influenza A/H1N1, Zika, Ebola, and now pandemic COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2”, have demonstrated that during a pandemic, as resources are redirected, transplantation activities are reduced.1 Transplant teams have historically been creative in developing ways to optimize the volume of organ transplants conducted during such times, but the COVID-19 pandemic presented new and unprecedented challenges.1 The SARS-CoV-2 virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic is highly contagious and difficult to control and individuals infected by the virus may be asymptomatic.2 COVID-19 has both posed unique challenges to the safety and management of organ transplantation. The Toronto General Hospital (TGH) has been a world leader in providing recommendations for healthcare systems across different levels on how to best optimize procedures during this pandemic.1 Despite TGH’s prioritization of essential surgeries during the pandemic, a considerable number of patients on the organ waiting list continue to have their transplants delayed, with some even dying during this time.3 Our team is interested in addressing these challenges by considering the response at TGH’s Multi-Organ Transplant Program (MOTP) during the COVID-19 pandemic by exploring the perspectives of donor and recipient patients, healthcare professionals, administrative staff, organ procurement institutions, and government representatives involved in transplant activities conducted during pandemics.


1. Kumar D, Manuel O, Natori Y, et al. COVID-19: A global transplant perspective on successfully navigating a pandemic. Am J Transplant. 2020;20(7):1773-1779. doi:10.1111/ajt.15876
2. World Health Organization. Coronavirus. https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_1. Published 2020. Accessed July 26, 2020.
3. Canadian Blood Services. National COVID-19 Impact Data. https://professionaleducation.blood.ca/en/organs-and-tissues/covid-19-update/national-covid-19-impact-data. Published 2020. Accessed July 24, 2020.

Capstone Team: 

Mr. Fabricio Batistella Zasso, MD MBA MD MBA

Sinai Health System, University of Toronto Sinai Health System, University of Toronto
Clinical Fellow Anesthesiologist Clinical Fellow Anesthesiologist


Ms. Atina Boonchit, BSc

University of Toronto Mississauga HEC Montréal Research Assistant
Teaching Assistant Ethics and Creativity in Organizations (ECO) Lab


Dr. Angie Katherine Puerto Nino, MD MD

Assistant Research at the Institute for Global Health Equity and Innovation at the University of Toronto Assistant Research at the Institute for Global Health Equity and Innovation at the University of Toronto
Physician and surgeon Physician and surgeon


Ms. Sabrin Salim, HBSc HBSc


Capstone Supervisor:

Prof. Joseph Ferenbok, PhD

Translational Research Program Temerty Faculty of Medicine University of Toronto
Revolutionary Translator Director

Capstone Advisory Committee:

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