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Headshot of Judy Genshaft Honors College student Aiden Jaskolka-Brown

Honors Student Saves a Life as Living Organ Donor

Would you help save another person’s life, even if it meant undergoing a difficult elective surgery?

For University of South Florida (USF) student Aiden Jaskolka-Brown, the answer was a resounding “yes” when he became a living organ donor last May. He would later learn that his extraordinary act would save the life of a five-month-old infant near his hometown.

Beyond remarkable acts of selflessness, Jaskolka-Brown is an impressive student in his own right. Originally from Denver, Colorado, Jaskolka-Brown is a third-year biomedical sciences major and member of the Judy Genshaft Honors College, he is part of the Honors College’s 7-year B.S./M.D. program and is already set to attend USF’s Morsani College of Medicine in the fall of 2024.

But it was during the spring semester of 2022, while taking the Honors course “Applied Medical Ethics” with cardiologist, palliative care specialist, and Honors affiliate faculty member Dr. John Dormois, that Jaskolka-Brown became inspired to make his own life-changing decision.

Headshot of Dr. John Dormois

Dr. John Dormois


Comprised largely of pre-med and other students interested in a career in health care, the medical ethics course allows students to explore the gray areas of medicine and to discuss different perspectives with their peers. Through his teachings, Dormois aims to inspire students to reconsider their preconceptions of medicine and to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of the medical field and the inherent ways patients’ lives are affected.

“Whether it's organ transplantation, access to medical care, or brain death ... all are complex issues that are always filled with nuance. There's rarely ever a single answer,” said Dormois of the topics covered in the course. 

It was such a discussion that sparked an interest with Jaskolka-Brown, motivating him to seek out more information on living organ donation.

"I learned so much from that class. I learned that 96% of organ donors are dead, and that means only 4% are living. And I was presented with the statistic that if only 0.01% of the population donated organs as living donors, then there would not be a transplant list,” said Jaskolka-Brown.

Eager to change that staggering statistic, he began reaching out to organ donor programs at hospitals across the country to explore the possibility of becoming a living donor. Soon Jaskolka-Brown received a call from the University of Colorado-Denver.


He began rounds of medical testing to ensure his fitness as a donor, including blood panels, mental health screenings, and liver function tests. A compassionate team of psychiatrists, hepatologists, social workers, and surgeons came together to ensure his viability as a candidate, and a few months later, Jaskolka-Brown was matched with a recipient and was set to have surgery.

Unfortunately, he was then notified that the initial recipient became medically ineligible before Jaskolka-Brown was able to donate. 

“It’s a tough part about being an anonymous donor in that you don't know anything about the background of the patients who you're giving a piece of yourself to,” said Jaskolka-Brown.

As he was busy studying for the MCAT exam, the waiting period for a recipient began again. Soon enough Jaskolka-Brown got the call: 

“They asked ... Are you able to come in and under the knife in eight days?” recounted Jaskolka-Brown. Just over a week later, he donated a segment of his liver to save a five-month-old baby boy.


Jaskolka-Brown's own recovery process unfolded smoothly, and he felt normal after just six-to-eight weeks.

“Ultimately, I've determined that it's the relationships I have with other people that bring me joy in life and give my life meaning.” – Honors student Aiden Jaskolka-Brown 

Eventually, Jaskolka-Brown's donor coordinator asked if he would like to send a letter to the recipient’s family.

“I thought they deserve an explanation that I wanted to save a life," he explained while recalling the rush he experienced after opening his mailbox to find a return letter from the recipient’s family.

Hearing from the family about the major improvements the baby went through following the transplant and receiving pictures of a happy, healthy child gave Jaskolka-Brown an even greater sense of joy as he knew he helped change a life forever.

Another month later, in late December 2023, Jaskolka-Brown returned to Colorado to meet his recipient.

“It was one of the most human moments ... to see a baby thriving and to see a family that's happy, that didn't have to deal with the tragedy of child loss,” reflected Jaskolka-Brown on the moment he met the family for the first time.

Over a few days, Jaskolka-Brown spent even more time with the baby and family over dinners, even meeting their extended family and attending the baby’s first birthday party.

Honors student Aiden-Jaskolka Brown holding a young baby who was the recipient of an organ donation

Jaskolka-Brown meets the recipient of his living organ donation.

Jaskolka-Brown remains in contact with the family and says that he enjoys getting to hear about all of the milestones in infant’s young life.  

“The other day, I got a text message that he went on his first ice-fishing trip! To be able to see just such a happy baby going out into the world, it's just wonderful.”

By sharing his living organ donation success story, Jaskolka-Brown hopes to inspire more people to consider the ways they can positively impact the lives of others:

“I ultimately want to inspire other people to do similar gestures. Maybe not as big of a decision as undergoing surgery to donate an organ to somebody else, but even donating blood can really make a difference in people’s lives.”

When asked if he thinks others should consider making the same life-saving decision to become a living organ donor, Jaskolka-Brown's answer remains resolute:

“If you have the capacity to make such a decision, I think you should.”

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Committed to intellectual curiosity, global citizenship, and service across three unique Tampa Bay campuses, Honors News shares the exceptional stories of the Judy Genshaft Honors College.