Social Impact Heroes: How Joseph Ferreira is helping hundreds of people in Nevada to receive life saving organ donations

Yitzi Weiner
Mar 30 · 10 min read
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I have had the honor of knowing heart transplant recipient, Erik Compton, a pro golfer from Southern Florida. Compton has received not one, but two heart transplants from heroic donors who saved his life twice and ultimately allowed him the second chance at life, which he clearly made the most of. Compton went on to earn his Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) tour card after his second transplant amongst some of the greatest golfers on the planet. It was incredibly inspiring to be a part of the team who supported his donor for his second heart transplant and see him go on to receive such a prestigious accomplishment in honor of his donor. He has since become an avid advocate for life encouraging others to become organ and tissue donors by sharing his inspiring story.

As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Joseph Ferreira.

Joseph “Joe” Ferreira began his role as the Chief Executive Officer and President of Nevada Donor Network in April 2012.

Joe brings years of experience and expertise in the Organ Procurement field. He spent 14 years at Life Alliance Organ Recovery Agency in Miami, Florida, where he served as the Director of Clinical Operations for the past 7 years.

Joe is a graduate of the University of Miami, with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Immunology. He also received his MBA with a specialization in HealthCare Administration and Policy from the University of Miami. Joe is certified in all aspects of the organ donation and recovery process.

At this time, Joe serves as the Chairman of the Procurement Council for the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO). Joe has also served as an At-Large Representative on two committees for the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). He is a Certified Member of the National Association of Healthcare Quality (NAHQ), a Certified Faculty Member of the North American Transplant Coordinators Organization (NATCO), and a Member of the American College of Health Care Executives (ACHE).

Joe is a published author and presenter on organ donation. He has presented at conferences and meetings around the nation. He consults internationally and has provided guidance to several foreign governments on the establishment or improvement of organ donation and transplant systems based on the US model. He was also the recipient of the Kruger Award for Outstanding Professional Transplant Services by the Transplant Foundation in Miami.

“I am very excited to be a part of the team at Nevada Donor Network and the important community partners who are crucial to the success of the organization. Our mission to coordinate the recovery of and bring awareness to the critical need for organs and tissues for transplantation therapy is a vital service to the community which must be held to the highest standards of excellence. Acting on behalf of those who wait for a second chance at life and health and to honor those who give the gift, the team at NDN is committed to excellence. I am honored to be a part of the organization and look forward to the bright future which lies ahead.”

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?

Early on in my donation and transplantation career one of my duties was to drive an emergency truck outfitted with lights and sirens given the urgency of our mission and the time constraints involved. This was a responsibility I took very seriously and cautiously, requiring extensive training to operate safely under emergent conditions. In order to activate the emergency lights and sirens, it was necessary to activate two separate switches; one for the lights and the other for the sirens. One morning, a team of surgeons and I completed an overnight case of a donor hero. Upon completion of the procedure, we loaded the emergency suburban bound for the transplant hospital which was about a 40-minute commute with no traffic and it was the middle of rush hour. We departed the donor hospital and encountered traffic at a red light about two miles from the freeway. In order to clear the heavy traffic as we counted the precious minutes ticking away, which may compromise the organs, so I activated the emergency status of the vehicle. I then expected people to yield the right of way, except that people were carrying on as if we were a regular truck. We were surrounded by vehicles with nowhere to go at a red light in morning traffic. Not one car was trying to move out of the way to allow us passage, despite the wailing siren. All of us in the car became frustrated by how “rude drivers seemed” that they would not even yield to an emergency vehicle which was carrying lifesaving organs and tissues from a heroic donor. The light turned green and we began to move, finally reaching the freeway. It was then I realized I had only activated the siren but not the lights. It was my mistake as the Emergency Vehicle Operator Course (EVOC) certified driver that the complete emergency status wasn’t activated and other drivers heard the sirens — but did not know who to yield to because there were no flashing lights to identify our status. Upon realizing my mistake, I inconspicuously turned the correct switch on, and it was smooth sailing from there. We made it safely to the transplant hospital and lives were saved that day despite my funny, but an incompetent mistake.

Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It was a valuable lesson for me in terms of being self-aware. I learned not to judge those around me for their behavior or lack of action. As a young and ambitious team member, I would grow frustrated by those around me who appeared unmotivated, when in fact I was not doing my part to encourage them into the correct course of action. This was one of the first, but certainly not last, lessons which involve the cooperation and understanding of so many people to accomplish our life-saving work.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

Nevada Donor Network (NDN), Nevada’s federally designated organ procurement nonprofit organization also recovering tissues and eyes, strives to provide hope, strength, and life to those who may be waiting for their second chance at life and health. NDN is the agency responsible for coordinating lifesaving and healing organ, tissue and eye donations from heroic donors and their courageous families throughout the state of Nevada. One of our most significant functions within this process is to ensure these selfless gifts are optimized to help heal and save as many lives as possible. The NDN team has become one of the highest-performing organ, eye and tissue donation agencies in the world. Due to our success, NDN was able to launch The Nevada Donor Network Foundation to create and steward opportunities for contributions, grants, and gifts in an effort to save and enhance life by building a Transplant Institute. We hope our vision to open Nevada’s first-ever multi-organ transplant center and support the current local center will allow people in our state to receive lifesaving organs without having to relocate. The Foundation will also assist in the funding, operations, and support of our hospital partners in the area to provide better transplant-related care for those in need before they need a transplant.

Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted by your cause?

I have had the honor of knowing heart transplant recipient, Erik Compton, a pro golfer from Southern Florida. Compton has received not one, but two heart transplants from heroic donors who saved his life twice and ultimately allowed him the second chance at life, which he clearly made the most of. Compton went on to earn his Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) tour card after his second transplant amongst some of the greatest golfers on the planet. It was incredibly inspiring to be a part of the team who supported his donor for his second heart transplant and see him go on to receive such a prestigious accomplishment in honor of his donor. He has since become an avid advocate for life encouraging others to become organ and tissue donors by sharing his inspiring story.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Every day in the United States, 22 people pass away waiting on an organ that was not donated in time. There are currently 113,000 people waiting for a lifesaving transplant. Individuals who make the decision to become organ and tissue donors can potentially save up to eight people’s lives and heal dozens more. The first step people can take to help us find a solution to the shortage is to register to be a donor hero. Becoming a registered organ donor is very easy and can be done so online at www.registerme.org. Secondly, it’s especially important for public officials to speak out about organ donation and educate our communities on the process and impact of organ and tissue donation. In doing so, we have the power to dispel any misconceptions, educate the public, become advocates for life and create the needed changes in our communities — and ultimately — our healthcare systems to help save as many lives as possible for those waiting on their second chance. Lastly, until every recipient has a chance at receiving the gift of life and every potential donor is registered to be a hero, we are not doing enough.

How do you define “Leadership”?

Leadership is a great honor and should be relentlessly guided by passion, inclusion, humility, and self-awareness to help others, and yourself, reach maximum potential. A great leader can bring a team together — no matter the differences — to work collectively towards a goal and achievement using “decision equity and uncomfortable inclusion.”

Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

When I first became CEO of Nevada Donor Network, the organization was facing many challenges. I quickly realized that in order to succeed I would need guidance and the philosophies I learned during my MBA at the University of Miami. I sought help from other industry leaders, CEOs and professionals. Throughout these conversations, I realized everyone in the organization needed a voice and a space to feel heard, thus the importance of implementing the concept of “decision equity” and engaging in “uncomfortable inclusion.” While this process may be difficult, due to varying perspectives, viewpoints, backgrounds and life experience, diverse teams who work together perform more effectively and can accomplish much greater feats by making better decisions through this process. I learned quickly that inclusion was the key to our success, and we had to bring together differing points of view from very capable, intelligent and passionate people at all levels. Through teamwork, patience, communication, inclusion and collaboration NDN has transformed itself to become a world leader in the organ procurement industry.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  • Let people learn from their own mistakes. Encourage them to take chances and learn new skills, even if they make mistakes along the way.
  • Be patient. You never know the battles people are facing, professionally and personally. Team members who demonstrate a positive attitude, respect and ambition are worth your time, so invest in them.
  • Fulton Oursler once said, “We crucify ourselves between two thieves: regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow.” By taking responsibility for our actions, and removing fear or regret from our path, we can pursue true purpose, passion, and meaning in our lives.
  • Make the tough decisions sooner rather than later. Don’t hesitate to eliminate obstacles immediately, the longer problems exist, the more time they can negatively affect success.
  • You must appreciate where you came from in order to get where you want to go. My father and mother emigrated from Brazil in the 1960s because they wanted a better opportunity for their family. With limited English, my father completed his residency and received his medical license to become an obstetrician and gynecologist (OB/GYN). My parents raised us to be humble and kind to others and took us back to Brazil frequently where we learned to true joy while we appreciate the challenges and suffering other countries experience. It is through these sacrifices and a humble upbringing I’m able to truly appreciate what I’ve accomplished with great people around me continue to accomplish remarkable things each day.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

While there are more than 145 million people in the U.S. registered as organ donors, we all need to sign up. There are still hundreds of thousands of people who may not have an opportunity to be here tomorrow. While this movement has already begun, and donate life has gained traction, there is still much work to be done. There are children, mothers, fathers, friends and family who are fighting for their lives all over the world. It is our vision that through eye, organ and tissue donation, we can continue to bring hope, strength and life to all who need it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Ernest Hemingway is attributed to the quote, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are stronger at the broken places.” Oftentimes, especially in the organ donation and transplantation industry, we experience loss, defeat, and challenges. However, it is through these challenges we have the opportunity to become stronger in those “broken places” as Hemingway wrote. The donors, their families, recipients and those who wait for a second chance teach me every day how fragile life is and what is possible when we overcome adversity with hard work, passion, and care.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

Bill and Melinda Gates is a consummate example of being both successful humans and avid philanthropists. They show the world you can do well for yourself while also doing good for the world.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

IG:joemarcferreira

Facebook:josephmarcferreira

Linked In: Joseph Ferreira, MBA, CPHQ

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film…

Yitzi Weiner

Written by

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Yitzi Weiner

Written by

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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