UK HealthCare

'Behind the Blue': Second Chances Start at the UK Transplant Center

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 26, 2020) – More than 1,000 people in Kentucky are on the waiting list for a lifesaving organ. More than 22 people die each day awaiting a transplant, and someone is added to the national waiting list every ten minutes.

Second chances start at the UK HealthCare Transplant Center. Since 1964, more than 2,600 kidney transplants have taken place, thanks to a dedicated team of physicians, surgeons, nurse practitioners and nurse coordinators, pharmacists, nutritionists, social workers, and support staff. They specialize in caring for transplant patients and guiding them through the transplant process, from the initial consultation through surgery and beyond.

“Patients in Kentucky often don’t have the means to go out of state, so having a center here ensures that our patients get the care they need and the care they deserve,” said Dr. Meera Gupta, surgical director of the kidney and pancreas transplant program. “Here in Lexington, we serve a large geographic area, and we have outreach clinics in Louisville, northern Kentucky and Bowling Green so we can support our patients at all points of their transplant journey by letting them stay closer to home for routine care.”

Staff at the UK Transplant Center are with patients every step of the way, from initial screenings, to lifelong follow up care. Upon first visits with patients, nurse coordinator Ashleigh Mefford encourages them to think of her as a new member of their family, one who they can call at any time for questions.

“They truly become members of our transplant family, because we follow them forever,” Gupta said.

The majority of kidneys come from deceased donors, and once transplanted, can last 10-15 years. A kidney from a living donor can last twice as long and reduce a patient’s time on the transplant waiting list from years to weeks.

“Regardless of the source of the donated kidney, recipients get a much needed second chance at living a happy and healthy life,” Gupta said.

On this edition of Behind the Blue, transplant practice manager Bethany Banks joins Mefford and Gupta to discuss the UK Transplant Center, what patients can expect when they come to the clinic, and more.

"Behind the Blue" is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and Spotify. Become a subscriber to receive new episodes of “Behind the Blue” each week. UK’s latest medical breakthroughs, research, artists and writers will be featured, along with the most important news impacting the university.

For questions or comments about this or any other episode of "Behind the Blue," email or tweet your question with #BehindTheBlue.

To discover what’s wildly possible at the University of Kentucky, click here.

More than 90% of U.S. adult support organ donation, but only 60% are registered donors. Each year, the number of people on the waiting list grows larger than both the number of donors and transplants. To learn more about becoming a registered organ donor, visit to learn more how you can give the gift of life.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.