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Long-term board member, kidney recipient drives diversity initiatives at LifeSource

Kidney recipient, donation advocate and LifeSource Board member. Bruce King has helped bring about tremendous change for LifeSource over the last 12 years. We asked him about his work with LifeSource, the past, the future and what he will miss the most as he leaves the LifeSource Board of Directors.

In 2007, Bruce King had been on dialysis for end stage renal failure for two years. On a beautiful Friday afternoon in May, Bruce received a call that changed his life. A kidney donor had been found for him and he would soon receive a life-saving transplant.

This was Bruce’s introduction to organ, eye, and tissue transplantation and LifeSource. Shortly after his recovery, he agreed to join the LifeSource Board of Directors. He was unsure of how he could help but he wanted to give back in honor of the gift he received, “This incredible thing happens to you and you just want to give back. This was my contribution back for this incredible gift that I got.”

Bruce recalls his first experiences with LifeSource with his typical blend of humor and humility, “When I first joined the Board I really didn’t know what I was doing.” he joked. “Everything was very technical, and I was unsure how I was going to be able to help, but I was eager to focus on the people impacted by donation.” It was an experience before he officially joined the Board that stuck with him in those early days, “I like to say that I’ve been on the Board for 12 ½ years because I attended some meetings before my term technically started. I got to meet with the people who were working on Barbershop Conversations (an outreach initiative in the African American community that teaches barbers general health information, so they’re empowered to talk about health with their clients). It was one of the things that made me fall in love with the organization, I just remembered thinking ‘Wow, this organization is really onto something.’”

After 12 ½ years of service, Bruce has a lot to look back on and celebrate regarding his time with LifeSource. His personal expertise helped LifeSource with internal and external diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Bruce has participated in countless events and used his incredible talent as a speaker to bring the message of donation to people all over the LifeSource service area. He spent three years on the UNOS Minority Affairs Committee, an important place to be part of the national dialogue.

LifeSource CEO Susan Gunderson had this to say about Bruce’s time with LifeSource, “Bruce has been such an important adviser to me and my team as we work to elevate our commitment to diversity and inclusion in our work force and in our community.  He asks the right questions, challenges us, supports us and helps open our eyes to opportunities we must address.  We are now ready to stand with our community, nation and the world for equality, justice and systemic change.”

Bruce hosting the 2019 Donate Life Symposium.

As Bruce reflected on his 12 years with LifeSource, a few things came to mind for him, one was specifically about his time as Board Chair. “I am most proud of the way we brought the Board closer to the staff and really humanized the Board of Directors so that we (the Board) are much more aware of the work that happens every day. There is such a sense of collegiality on the Board that has allowed perspectives, ideas, and thoughts to come into those meetings that did not exist when I first joined. I don’t take credit for all of that, but under my leadership I tried very hard to bring the Board to the organization, walking around the office and talking to people, hosting Donate Life Day, engaging and participating in events, these were things that hadn’t happened before. I tried to give LifeSource as much of my time and talent as I could.”

“I’ve watched us move from rented offices to a state-of-the-art facility, create operating rooms, tissue donation rooms and reorganizing the entire organization, always making the organization better.” Bruce said as he reflected on the changes he has experienced with LifeSource over the last 12 years. “I’m so proud of the living symbol of the new facility in North Minneapolis and the opportunities that it has provided and will continue to provide for community access.”

After all this time helping to move LifeSource forward with his contributions of time and talent, Bruce still had thoughts about the future of the organization. “Years from now, I would like to think that what I was able to do as a Board member and ambassador for LifeSource is seen as the start.” Bruce uses eye and tissue donation as an example, remembering that performing eye and tissue recoveries at LifeSource started as an idea but eventually grew into successful programs because of the organization’s desire to better serve donor families. “I hope that I’m seen as a pebble that started the waves. I hope this is just the start of an ongoing commitment to results driven initiatives that integrate LifeSource into the lives of everyone.”

“When it comes to organ donation all lives truly matter. Black lives matter, brown lives matter, gay lives matter, all lives matter. How are we going to advocate for inclusion of those groups that have historically been excluded from organ, tissue, and eye donation?”

It’s clear that Bruce still has goals for LifeSource and is proud of what he has helped to build so far. “I’d love to see a much more diverse Board and organization. I’d love to see this organization reflect the diversity of the communities it serves,” he says. “LifeSource is an incredibly high performing Organ Procurement Organization (OPO). I would like to see us lead the industry in inclusive organ, eye and tissue donation. We can do it! We’ve done everything else we’ve set our mind to – every single thing.”

Thinking about his own future he says, “While this is coming to an end, there are other things I’ll be doing. I’m going to take what I’ve learned here and bring it to other organizations that could benefit from my expertise.”

When asked what he’ll miss most about moving on from LifeSource, the words come easily and are from the heart. “I thought I was pretty good at seeing the humanity in others, but when you’re talking to someone who just got new lungs, had their prayers answered by getting a kidney, to thank people who have given the gift, to hug people who have received the gift, to encourage those waiting on the gift, talk to the families of those who gave the gift…that’s what this gave me. My time here gave me the opportunity to touch people’s lives and made it possible for people to touch mine. I am a much better person because of the experience I had with LifeSource.”