Colby Foundation Spreads Message of Organ and Tissue Donation to LECOM Students

Turning tragedy into triumph; giving hope to a hopeless situation.

It is the message that resonated through the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine lecture hall as Starla Cassani made an impassioned plea to LECOM medical students in Bradenton, FL.

Following the tragic death of their 14-month-old son, Colby, in 1993, Cassani and her husband John have dedicated their lives to educating people on the importance of organ and tissue donation. Starla Cassani spoke about how Colby’s death brought life to three people: his kidneys gave life to a 27-year-old in Pittsburgh; his liver gave life to a 3-year-old girl in Sacramento and his heart gave life to a 5-month-old boy in Colorado.

John Cassani, D.O. and Starla Cassani, present a check from the Colby Foundation to Robert George, D.O., LECOM associate dean of academic affairs.

That 5-month-old, Brayden, just turned 18.

An emotional Cassani recalled the day when Brayden, then 3, gave her a precious gift during a visit.

“He asked me to listen to his heart,” she said. “What can you say after hearing that? It was a truly profound moment. We are blessed to have been able to give the gift of donation and transplantation. Supporting this cause gave me passion and purpose in my life.”

In 1995, Cassani and her husband John, an osteopathic physician, established the Colby Foundation in memory of their son. In her talk, Cassani urged LECOM students to make organ donation a part of their future patients’ annual history and physical. She said she can’t imagine what her life would be like today had Colby’s physician not asked her about organ donation.

“As future physicians you have the power to educate your patients on organ and tissue donation,” Cassani said. “When they asked us about organ donation, they gave us back some control. This brought us some hope in an otherwise hopeless situation.”

Edward Faber Jr. D.O., a 2003 LECOM graduate, speaks to students about bone marrow transplants.

In 2008, LECOM received approval for a $12,000 endowment from the Colby Foundation to be used to offer a lecture series that educates LECOM medical students and the public about organ and tissue donation. Each of LECOM’s three locations – in Erie, PA, Bradenton, FL., and Greensburg, PA. – will receive $4,000 annually. LECOM is one of six schools to be involved in the lecture series.

Also lecturing on behalf of the Colby Foundation was LECOM alumni Edward Faber Jr., D.O. Dr. Faber, a 2003 graduate, is an assistant professor of oncology/hematology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Dr. Faber spoke to students about the work he does with bone marrow transplant patients.

Students also heard a heart-warming story from Warren Tittle, a bilateral lung transplant recipient from Sarasota, FL. Tittle welled-up with tears and thanked all the students who raised their hands when asked if they had signed up to be organ donors. Melissa Kelley, R.N., C.P.T.C., Vascular Coordinator of LifeLink in Tampa, FL also gave a presentation.

The LifeLink Foundation is a non-profit community service organization dedicated to the recovery of an increasing number of high quality organs and tissue for transplantation therapy. The Foundation attempts to work in a sensitive, diligent, and compassionate manner with donor families to facilitate the donation of desperately needed organs and tissues for waiting patients.

The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and LECOM School of Pharmacy offer innovative and affordable education in osteopathic medicine and pharmacy. From campuses in Erie, Pennsylvania, Greensburg, Pennsylvania and Bradenton, Florida, LECOM provides student-centered pathways to prepare the next generation of healthcare professionals. Prepare yourself for medicine as your life’s profession.

February 9, 2011
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