The Greatest Gift of All

Alan Cochran, new executive director and president of ARORA, leads an established organization dedicated to saving and enhancing lives through organ, tissue and eye transplantation.

By Jillian McGehee | Photography by Sara Reeves

More than 123,000 people across the United States are waiting for a potentially life-saving organ. And more than 300 of those on the waiting list are Arkansans. These eye-opening statistics motivate Alan Cochran to do whatever is possible to make a difference and help save lives. A little more than a year ago, Alan took the reins at Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency (ARORA) as executive director and president.

Since 1987, ARORA has made every effort to provide organs and tissues for life-saving and life-enhancing transplantation its mission. This mission is fulfilled through hospital involvement, hospital training, and community involvement by providing public education. Public events are one way ARORA educates and encourages organ and tissue donation. April is Donate Life Month, and the upcoming Function at the Junction – a fun walk and party at the Junction Bridge – is “a great opportunity for ARORA staff to interact personally with the community,” Alan says. “It’s a good opportunity to assist people with getting registered as an organ, tissue and eye donor, provide information about the critical needs of donation and have some fun at the end of Donate Life Month. We will also be able to say ‘thank you’ to Arkansans for the long-standing support of the Arkansas donor registry and ARORA.”

Alan became involved in the organ-tissue recovery field back in the 1980s. In the latter years of that decade, he made a career change to work for Osteotech as a customer service representative. In that capacity he collaborated with the American Red Cross Tissue Services and Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation. In the early ’90s, he switched careers to work at the American Red Cross tissue services and then later with OneLegacy, a Los Angeles-based organ procurement organization. He is most happy with his decision to move to Little Rock to lead ARORA, “a well-respected organization within the 58 organ procurement organizations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico,” he says.

Collaborating with ARORA’s board of directors to increase staffing levels has been a major accomplishment since Alan joined the organization, he notes. To meet the demands of ARORA’s mission and customers, a number of departments have been restructured, and there’s more cohesion within the senior management team. Alan adds that he’s enjoyed working with ARORA’s “dedicated staff” as he observes them collaborating with various staff teams at hospitals, the transplant center leadership, State Police, crime lab, coroner’s office and various funeral directors.

ARORA is also diligently working to increase awareness of donation through Workplace Partnership for Life via multicultural outreach, including a bi-lingual educator, and increasing involvement for the ARORA volunteers. “We are also focusing on ensuring that we have adequate staff to appropriately offer the opportunity for tissue donation, recover tissue donors and perform the required quality assurance controls,” Alan says. He also notes that ARORA collaborates with the Arkansas Lion’s Eye Bank and has increased the number of authorized donors to help the eye bank serve Arkansans in need of corneal transplant surgery.

Alan’s top priority has been and will remain increasing the number of organ and tissue donors. To meet this need, he says the number of critical care nursing staff has increased. These team members work with donor hospitals in providing critical care to the donor. “We are also increasing the number of staff who speak with donor families, offering the opportunity to donate the gift of life as well as providing each family support in their time of grief,” he says.”


To the POINT

Something unique about ARORA? A group of volunteers knit “shawls of compassion” to give donor families
Something surprising about you?  Following my love of travel, I have been to all 50 states, six continents and far-reaching places like Kathmandu, Nepal, and Quito, Ecuador
Why be an organ donor? Giving the gift of life to another person has to be the most generous thing one person can do for another

Inviting Arkansas

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