Mighty motivated: Jade Dirk says unique work keeps her striving for positive system changes for those awaiting transplants

Photo of Jade Dirk, Provincial Project Lead, Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplant Programs
Photo of Jade Dirk, Provincial Project Lead, Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplant Programs

Jade Dirk comes from a long line of health care providers. Unlike many of her family members who are physicians or nurses, Dirk saw herself doing something a bit different. It wouldn’t necessarily be at the bedside, but it would have a profound and positive impact for people accessing the health care system.

“Before moving to Halifax in 2018, I lived and worked in Ontario,” said Dirk. “I worked in kidney donation and deceased organ donation – specifically in the nephrology field. A lot of what I was doing had to do with research and administrative data.”

That experience paired perfectly in her next role as project manager for the Legislative Evaluation: Assessment of Deceased Donation Reform (LEADDR) project. The LEADDR project was a result of legislation change, called the Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act (HOTDA), which came into effect January 2020. To learn more about the LEADDR project, click here: https://www.nshealth.ca/news/nova-scotia-researchers-lead-way-innovative...

By enacting the law, Nova Scotia became the first jurisdiction in North America to pass the deemed consent model. Instead of opting-in to donate organs and tissues, individuals now must opt-out of the donation system. LEADDR gave researchers at Nova Scotia Health an opportunity to thoroughly investigate and evaluate the impact of the legislation, its implementation, and public perception.

“It was a really interesting time to be part of the organ and tissue donation and transplant teams,” said Dirk. “As project manager for LEADDR, I was able to evaluate the impact of the legislative changes and study qualitative surveys and interviews. I was able to also apply my previous experience with different populations in Ontario, which was very important in working through these changes.”

After her work with LEADDR was complete, Dirk took on the role of provincial project lead, organ and tissue donation and transplant programs in March 2022. Tied to all three programs, her job is to ensure all the proposed work from HOTDA stays on-track and moves forward.

“It’s a really unique role,” shared Dirk. “Organ and tissue donation and transplantation are under one system but they’re three separate programs. Naturally these programs work together, but it’s my job to make sure they’re aligned, that legislative changes are seamless and ongoing work in one program doesn’t negatively impact another. Having me in all three spaces ensures there’s no disconnect or negative redundancy and that we’re all working together to achieve the same thing – and that’s system improvement.”

Given her background in research, Dirk sees her role as a key component to a more efficient system. Identifying education as the catalyst for positive change, she makes it a priority to seek out and bring evidence-based information to her work with all three programs.

“Whether it’s planning the sustainability of a project long-term, resource development, implementation management or updating policies or procedures, everything we do needs to be aligned with innovation and must be evidence-based,” said Dirk.

“In my role, I’m able to look at the research or the evidence we have collected and say confidently, we know this is a gap in care. We know this because the research tells us it is. It’s proven. You can’t argue with that. It motivates me to make changes and provide the necessary education that people need and want.”

Dirk says having the chance to make a difference and improve the health care system is what she loves most about her job. She wants everyone to know that giving the gift of life is not a small decision, but it’s one that needs to be communicated clearly.

“We need more open dialogue,” said Dirk. “Beyond registering your decision, tell your friends and family exactly what you want. In turn, ask them what they want. There’s so much stigma around the idea of donation. We have a chance to finally break through that barrier with proper education and supportive conversations. Reach out, get answers to the questions you’re looking for. Your decision makes a difference.”