In Memoriam: Jim Gleason, Transplant Patient Advocate
CareDx commemorates the life of James “Jim” Gleason, a selfless leader, patient advocate, heart transplant recipient and longtime President of the Transplant Recipients International Organization (TRIO), who died on August 26, 2022, after battling incurable pancreatic cancer. Jim spent the last few days of his life the same way he lived his life, by being a friend and patient advocate, while also working tirelessly to ensure that his organization’s important work for the transplant community would remain unabated. Meanwhile, he remained accessible to his inner circle of family, friends, industry partners, patients, and donor families.
His last weeks of life personify why Jim, who received his heart transplant in 1994, was not only embedded in the fabric of the transplant community, but someone many people considered a friend. He was never too busy or too ill to help a patient, donor family, or industry partner, including anyone at CareDx.
“Jim was a once in a generation leader, a genuine hero driven by his passion for patients and donors,” said Reg Seeto, CareDx CEO and President. “He was a tireless advocate for innovation and education to improve the lives of people who had undergone an organ transplant and advocate for organ and tissue donations. While he was a heart transplant patient, he advocated and supported all transplant patients, just as TRIO was agnostic in its efforts. From his lobbying on Capitol Hill to extend Medicare coverage of essential medications, to his ongoing support of innovations in xenotransplantation, the transplant community and CareDx we are all beneficiaries of Jim’s passion, knowledge, and hard work.”
One of our colleagues was among those who spoke with Jim during the last few weeks. “I will cherish those moments always,” our colleague wrote. “(Jim) has always been a believer in CareDx and our mission, providing us with support whenever needed and even without being asked. Anyone who had the pleasure of knowing Jim, knows he had a passion for helping patients on their transplant journey and in life.”
During the early years of CareDx, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) was considering cutting coverage of what were then “new” sequencing-based tests to monitor the health of transplanted organs, including the company’s innovative AlloMap® Heart test, the industry’s first non-invasive test of its kind to monitor heart transplant organ health. Although the test was proven to be more effective, CMS was concerned it was more expensive than protein-based tests. Gleason immediately sprang into action, working doggedly to educate policymakers on Capitol Hill about the often painful and expensive process of ongoing, lifelong testing that transplant recipients must undergo, and the need for innovations, including AlloMap, that offered reliable, less invasive alternatives to organ biopsy.
That successful lobbying effort ultimately shaped the future of post-transplant testing sector and accessibility to CareDx products, starting with AlloMap gene-expression profiling and subsequently AlloSure® donor-derived cell-free DNA.
“Jim has been an inspirational leader, passionate advocate, resilient patient, and a dear friend,” Peter Maag, former CareDx CEO wrote.
Jim threw himself into the creation of Honor the Gift, the national, patient- centered coalition sponsored by CareDx, that successfully lobbied for the extension of Medicare coverage of critical immunosuppressive medications for kidney transplant recipients (the Immuno Bill). It illustrated how he approached all challenges for patients.
“If there was an issue that needed the support of a globally respected patient advocate, Jim was always the first person to call. He’d answer day or night, always dropping everything for us and patients,” added Reg Seeto. “Jim will be sorely missed, and his legacy will never be forgotten.”
His obituary can be read here.