You might not picture a biostatistician on the front lines of saving lives. But Maureen McBride, PhD’95 (BIOS), has parlayed her training into a high-powered career at UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing, the nation’s transplant network.
Maureen McBride, PhD’95 (BIOS), says she’s “privileged to be in a position where I feel like the work I do helps patients every single day.”
As chief contract operations officer, McBride is part of a six-person C-suite at UNOS, a private nonprofit organization that operates the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network under contract with the federal government. They are tasked with operating the 24-hour computerized organ sharing system that matches donated organs to patients registered on the national organ transplant waiting list. The organization also seeks to increase understanding of the transplant system through education and improve transplant success rates through research and policy. It’s just a stone’s throw from VCU’s MCV Campus.
Her job is an important – and busy – one. “One of my primary responsibilities is to work with our partners in the transplant community and our funders at HRSA [the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration],” says McBride. “We make sure everybody’s on the same page with the different projects we have going on.” In addition to contract operations, she oversees three departments at UNOS: member quality, policy and the 24/7 organ placement division.
As she was finishing her doctorate, McBride heard about the opportunity for a senior biostatistician at UNOS. Its mission lured her away from thoughts of joining the pharmaceutical industry, a career path that interested many classmates. “It was a very different kind of opportunity. I knew I’d enjoy the direct connection with people in the field. I knew I’d have opportunity to work with people on national policy-making committees, to give presentations, write manuscripts and do collaborative research.”
In 2006, McBride became director of research, providing expertise in research, analysis and performance measurement conducted by UNOS staff. In 2014, she was promoted to her current position.
She’s pleased to help advance organ availability and transplantation through education, technology and policy development.
“I started as biostatistician involved in research and data, but now my scope has broadened to include policy development, performance improvement and compliance. Our organization is growing, medicine is evolving, and with a foundational education, you can go many different directions,” she says.
“The depth of her knowledge about how UNOS and transplantation work is amazing,” says Brian Shepard, CEO of UNOS. “Whenever I’m trying to understand something that nobody else seems to understand, I go to Maureen.”
It’s a time of growth at UNOS. The field of transplantation is expanding rapidly, with transplants in the U.S. up 6 percent last year and trending toward a 10 percent uptick this year. “I feel privileged to be in a position where I feel like the work I do helps patients every single day,” McBride notes.
McBride appreciates the long-standing relationship between VCU and UNOS. Noted transplant surgeons H.M. Lee, M.D., and David Hume, M.D., helped push the passing of the National Organ Transplant Act that founded the organization now known as UNOS. VCU is also a source of interns and hires for UNOS.
McBride’s top priority remains focusing on the lifesaving mission of UNOS. “There are currently 120,000 people on the waiting list,” she says. “But we’re only going to do about 30,000 transplants this year. Demand always far exceeds the supply.” She encourages everyone to make their wishes regarding organ donation known to their loved ones.
By Lisa Crutchfield