Written By: Jade Nunez

New York City, NY (July 2023) –

Over 8,000 people in New York State are awaiting a life-saving organ transplant, the same number of cyclists biking across the Williamsburg Bridge on a weekday in June 2021 (Cycling in the City). According to the Organ Procurement & Transplantation Network, of these 8,000 individuals, ~5,000 were left without a transplant.

Fortunately, young adults are taking the initiative and advocating for solutions to the lack of available donors. The Organ Donation Awareness Corporation (ODAC) is an undergraduate-run, student-led 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in New York City that is dedicated to educating youth on the importance of organ donation. From interviews to blogs to in-person, school-wide presentations, ODAC strives to connect on a foundational level with individuals and provide the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions regarding organ donation. ODAC was founded in 2019 by NYU Graduates Chirag Ram, a current Vanderbilt Medical Student, and Candice Medina, a Transplant Intensive Care Unit provider. While interviewed, Ram described his role in transplant research rejection and the impact of watching these surgeries fail, especially with the limited number of organs available when he moved to New York. “Using my knowledge from my research and science background, my passion for teaching, and desire to bring about long-standing change to a community… made me feel so welcome and gave me a place I can call home,” Ram explained. Currently, Ram sits on the Board of Directors and continues to provide executive and supportive roles in the organization.

In early March of 2023, current Executive Director, Lasya Damaraju, and last year’s Chief Operating Officer, Diya Cherian, visited high school students at Bard College’s Early College Program to carry out Ram’s vision. During the presentation, Damaraju and Cherian shared their personal experiences about organ donation and addressed common misconceptions about the organ donation process. Additionally, they shared the easy ways that students could learn more and sign up for organ donation. The two concluded the visit with an interactive quiz and Q&A session. Ultimately, Damaraju and Cherian strengthened the relationship between Bard College and ODAC, as students showed an interest in learning more about organ donation.

To promote action, ODAC established Youth Advocacy Month (YAM), an annual celebration featuring adult and youth organizations, advocates, physicians, and family members involved in organ donation. YAM features an array of affairs, including Fireside Chats, Tabling Events, Webinars, Youth Partnerships, and Interviews. YAM 2023 began with an interview with Nelson Freytes, founder and CEO of Transplant News. When Freytes was 24 years old, he started a new medication for his thyroid condition; his health took an unfortunate turn when he had an allergic reaction to the medication, went into a coma, and awoke with a new liver. Inspired by his new chance at life, Freytes created an opportunity for those affected by organ donation to talk about their experiences, and thus, Transplant News was born!

Various additional online events included Youth Partnerships, Fireside Chats, and Webinars. The Youth Partnership was with Charlie O’Brien, founder of Caught on Tape, a brand that challenges stereotypical norms of style and fashion. Additionally, organ donation advocate Terez Depasquale was interviewed regarding her journey alongside her husband during his medically-induced coma and double lung transplant; Evan Roden, also an organ donation advocate, shared his experiences and beliefs. Fireside Chats were held with Billy Miller and the 3rd Street Band, advocates for Lyme Disease and Mental Health, a Commitment Mentor at the Clinton Global Initiative University, Vinny Johl MBA, and Dr. Phillipe Douyon, a neurologist and kidney transplant recipient. In addition, ODAC leaders Alex Fraser and Jade Nunez and the LiveOn Transplant Support Organization held a successful webinar titled “Harnessing the Power of Intergenerational Collaboration to Solve the Organ Donation Crisis.” Due to its success, the two organizations have plans for in-person events in the NYC area.

Since its establishment in 2019, the Organ Donation Awareness Corporation has demonstrated that passion, collaboration, and perseverance can make a difference, no matter how big or small the impact may seem. In partnership with numerous organizations and individuals around the country, ODAC has successfully ended its goal for the academic year, and the organization has set its visions for the future. In the next year, ODAC aims to reach new heights – reaching audiences of different backgrounds and those who have not heard of organ donation before!

ODAC thanks each of the individuals and organizations who have helped make Youth Advocacy Month a great success!

For more details about YAM, visit https://www.odacny.org/press/youth-advocacy-overview23

For more information about the Organ Donation Awareness Corporation (ODAC):
Instagram: @odac_ny
Tiktok: @odacny
Email: [email protected]
Website: odacny.org

For more information on becoming an organ donor, visit DonateLife.net


Cycling in the City—2021 (pdf). (2021). NYC DOT.
State data. (n.d.). OPTN. Retrieved June 22, 2023, from

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