Professor’s kidney donation inspires class project
July 23, 2012
The summer of 2011 found Peter Lorenzi, Ph.D., recovering from surgery. The longtime management and international business professor had served as a live kidney donor for Peter Hilton, the brother of Lorenzi’s good friend Rev. Hank Hilton, S.J., now professor emeritus of economics.
“The decision was a natural extension of my friendship with Hank,” said Lorenzi. “Learning that my other best friend was dying of pancreatic cancer made the act more compelling to me. The hardest part of this was on my wife and kids, but in the end, the kids were keen and proud, my wife accepted the overall personal, philosophical, and emotional argument for the decision, and, compared with my 2006 hip replacement, this surgery was an easier recovery and lower risk.”
As time passed, Lorenzi continued to recover well, and Peter Hilton—who had faced a lifetime of dialysis treatments after years of fighting polycystic kidney disease—thrived as well. Lorenzi began to ponder whether his experience could inform his work in the classroom—specifically, an upper-level social enterprise course.
The class aims to help students develop an understanding of how to effect social change through sustainable social enterprise—increasing social capital by facilitating human development, empowering and enriching the disenfranchised, and preventing and solving poverty.
Lorenzi decided to showcase live kidney donation awareness among many other social enterprise initiatives covered in the course. He hoped a student group would choose to develop a donation awareness campaign for the course’s final research project.
To help students better understand the impact live kidney donation can have, he invited Matt Cooper, M.D., a transplant surgeon now at Georgetown University Hospital, to be a guest speaker during the class’s first meeting. Cooper shared a few of the startling statistics regarding kidney disease and live kidney donation. One team jumped on board.
“Realizing the impact dialysis has on people’s lives, and finding out that Professor Lorenzi had actually been a donor and that he’s perfectly fine, healthy, and fit, that it’s a worthwhile sacrifice, made this seem like a great pay-it-forward idea,” said Elizabeth MacAulay, ’12, an international business major from Rye, N.Y.
MacAulay and her teammates developed an awareness campaign plan that focused on telling the personal stories of those with kidney disease and transplant survivors through television advertisements, social media, display ads, video infographics, and fundraising and awareness building events—including one geared toward college students.
“These students did a great job of delving into a subject wholly unlike the typical business class research project,” said Lorenzi. “I think they took a risk in pursuing a project that was near and dear to me. I was very happy they took up the challenge—and I believe they were, too.”
And while Lorenzi’s goal was merely to encourage students to develop an awareness campaign—not contemplate kidney donation themselves—it’s not surprising the students have given some thought to whether they could make such a lifesaving gift.
“I remember Dr. Cooper showing us a graph of the domino effect of just one person’s decision to donate,” said MacAulay. “I can definitely see myself doing this one day.”