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iCAN Youth Member Nicole Mendez interviews David Cartier, an innovator in Transplant Logistics.

Updated: Sep 9, 2019

David Cartier is an innovator in the realm of healthcare technology, specifically transplant logistics. Over the years, his career progressed from overseeing operations at UPS to becoming President of cHealthWorks Logistics. His turning point was joining the U.S. HHS/HRSA Department of Transplantation as an HHS Entrepreneur. According to Cartier, this decision was spurred by his brother’s death, which showcased the importance of organ donation. He remarked, “It was a combination of God’s path and my skills… everything lined up.” His dedication, curiosity, and compassion are evident as he devises new ways to help people in this field.

As an HHS Entrepreneur, David Cartier helped overhaul the system for labeling and packaging organs, building upon his wealth of experience with UPS. Issues with the existing system arose from the complex nature of an organ donation event. The process, typically beginning in the emergency room, needed to be standardized. It was challenging to coordinate across teams and hospitals with different approaches. HRSA paired Cartier up with UNOS, The United Network for Organ Sharing, which manages the nation's organ transplant system under contract with the federal government. He noted that “the organ donation and transplant community was amazing because they were transparent and open about the problems.” His success was also attributed to support from the HHS/HRSA and their willingness to innovate.

When I asked where he saw potential for growth in the transplant field, Cartier dove into promising current and future technologies. He explained, “Pumps allow organs to last longer, go further, and wait on a potential donor, as well… Experts are working to use 3D printers to build organ structures, like a kidney, and apply stem cells to grow it.” Our conversation later turned to gene editing and CRISPR. He is confident that scientific advancements will continue to elevate patient outcomes and quality of life. Researchers are currently altering the genetic makeup of pigs’ hearts, possibly resulting in more transplant options compatible with humans.

David Cartier with Zion Harvey, June 2016, the world's 1st pediatric bilateral hand recipient. Cartier also visited KIDS Georgia in early 2019 to share his work as an inspiration to what all kids can one day do.

David Cartier believes that “anybody can be an entrepreneur and has the potential to do amazing things.” He went on to say, “If [you] walk away too soon because you’re not making an impact right away, you might walk away from a tremendous opportunity later on.” Perseverance is key, along with learning even from bad experiences. His advice for young people wanting to make a difference is to explore their options. “Dive in to whatever group you’re in, like iCAN, and pretty soon, you’re going to bring something unique to the table.” Speaking from personal experience, Cartier said “I remember in high school when I had a chance to take biology, and I said to my friend, “I have no interest in taking that,” fast forward 30 years later, I’m standing next to a Mayo [Clinic] surgeon wishing I paid closer attention. You never know where you’re gonna end up, you need to learn as much as you can at the point where you’re at. Bring in diverse skills and you can do amazing things with the support of the right people.”

Written and submitted by Nicole Mendez, an iCAN youth member of KIDS Illinois and a recent high-school honors graduate. Nicole is taking a gap-year before starting college and will be presenting on behalf of iCAN, along with her mom, Josie and her sister, Melanie, in November at a learning event held by PRA Sciences to share insight towards the patient experience. Thank you for sharing your voice, Nicole!

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