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LifeSource Thanks Susan Gunderson for 30 Years of Service; Looks Ahead To Continued Growth

Today, Gunderson announced her March 2022 retirement. She will leave behind both an incredible legacy and vision for the future.

LifeSource today congratulated and thanked Susan Gunderson for her three decades of dedication, growth and success as the organization’s founder and chief executive officer. Gunderson, who founded LifeSource in 1989, announced she will be retiring in March 2022.

“Susan’s contributions to LifeSource and the organ procurement organization (OPO) community are unmatched, and we are deeply grateful for the 32 years she has dedicated to founding, building and growing LifeSource and its talented team. Thanks to that work and commitment, LifeSource has cared for more than 15,000 families of donors who provided healing and life to more than 15,000 organ transplant recipients, and an estimated 1 million people received tissue and corneal transplants,” said Tim Bjork, LifeSource Board Chair.

Under Gunderson’s leadership, the organization has reached several significant milestones and achievements, including:  

  • Expanding far beyond organ donation programs. In 1999, LifeSource added a tissue donation program to procure skin, bone, valves and other tissue needed to heal patients, including burn victims and cancer survivors; and in 2016, it added an eye donation program to help restore sight to the blind and visually impaired.
  • Supported, advanced and facilitated expanded access to transplantation through partnership with transplant centers, researchers, and policy makers. Those partnerships have resulted in:
    • Heart Transplant Advancement making it possible for more hearts to be transplanted including those under the donation after circulatory death (DCD) pathway.
    • Partnering with the Hope Act, which allows for HIV+ donors to give to HIV+ recipients.
    • Partnering with transplant centers to make gifts of face and hand transplantation possible. In June of 2016, LifeSource facilitated the first face donation in our region.
  • Advocated for and expanded access to donation in diverse communities. For more than 30 years, LifeSource has worked in partnership with individuals and organizations from our diverse communities. A hallmark of this work is implementing Barbershop Conversations, to share information about donation and related health issues.

“I am proud of our sustained record of growth the past 30 years. Moving forward, we have a bold plan for accelerating the number of lives we save each year and supporting our diverse communities,” Gunderson said.  “Through the years I have come to know and hold dear the faces and stories of so many individuals and families who, through grace and compassion, created legacies far beyond what they could imagine. They represent the very best in humanity. I will be a life-long advocate for organ, eye and tissue donation. Meanwhile, I am also looking forward to traveling with my husband and to celebrating the weddings of two of my children.”

The Board of Directors, led by Chair Bjork, is conducting a candidate search, with the goal of having the next CEO identified in time for a smooth transition.

LifeSource is an organ procurement organization (OPO) serving Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and portions of western Wisconsin. As an OPO, LifeSource is designed to facilitate organ, eye and tissue donation between hospitals and transplant centers; support families and patients by honoring their intentions; and educate our communities about the impact of donation. LifeSource partners with nearly 300 hospitals and 9 transplant centers – as well as medical examiners, coroners and funeral directors – in our three-state service area to ensure every donor and family that wants to donate one’s organs, eyes and tissues has the opportunity to do so.

“With thousands of people on donation waiting lists throughout the Upper Midwest, our work has never been more important,” Bjork said. “Together with our partners and community, we have made incredible progress in technology, science and outreach. With this momentum, we will continue to grow and save even more lives.”

About LifeSource 
LifeSource is the nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation in the Upper Midwest, serving more than seven million people in communities across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Western Wisconsin. We are relentlessly pursuing a day when no one dies waiting for a life-saving transplant.