Deena Al-Saad - Tissue Coordinator

CurioCity Careers
1 December 2017

Deena Al-Saad

Tissue Coordinator at Trillium Gift of Life Network

I was born/grew up in: I was born in Baghdad, Iraq and moved to Canada when I was 12 years old.

I now live in: Ajax, Ontario, Canada

I completed my training/education at: I completed a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Education at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and a Medical Degree at the Medical University of Warsaw in Poland.

Describe what you do at work.

The role of a tissue coordinator is very exciting and engaging. The best part is not knowing what types of challenges or cases you will be working with each day, which makes it interesting. The donation process starts when someone passes away either at a hospital or at home.

When Trillium Gift of Life Network is told about a death, the first step is to get as much information as possible from the nurses or doctors. In order to find out if the patient is eligible to donate, we must follow a very strict set of medical criteria. My work is to determine if the patient is able to safely help others through the gift of tissue. Tissue includes eye, bone, tendons, heart valves and skin.

Once we know the patient is medically suitable to donate, the next step is to determine if they are registered as an organ and tissue donor. If so, we would bring that information into a conversation with the patient’s family. Once we have authorization from the family to proceed with donation, we contact tissue banks (specialized facilities where human tissue is processed and stored for future transplant use) and send staff to recover the donated tissue.

Tissue donation involves many different people and every STEM skill comes into play. All of the patient and medical information is sent electronically, so technology skills are essential. Strong medical knowledge and a science background are also important in the assessment process. Communication skills are crucial in our role as we are constantly relaying information between members of the medical team. With this in mind, it is extremely important that all the case details are captured correctly. Tissue coordinators work as part of a large team that are spread out all over the province and we communicate with different staff members through email or by phone. It is fascinating to see how such a large organization all works towards a common goal of saving and enhancing lives through donation and transplantation.

When I was a student I enjoyed:

How does your job affect people’s lives?

As tissue coordinators, we often play a part in improving people’s everyday lives. Tissue donation can help many people: eyes can restore sight to those with vision loss; heart valves can replace the valves that are diseased or damaged (heart valve recipients are often children); skin can help burn patients survive; bones can be used for reconstructive surgeries; and tendons and ligaments can help people walk, run and live a full life.

What motivates you in your career?

My biggest motivation in my career is knowing that I am part of a process that helps others have a better quality of life. As tissue coordinators, our role involves interacting with grieving family members. However, knowing that their loved one was able to help others also gives families a sense of hope and comfort. Hearing how people have benefited from tissue donation – that we help make possible - makes the difficult part of our job melt away. I believe that this career is right one for me and anyone who cares about helping others and truly wants to make a difference in the world.

When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:

Describe your career path to this career.

When I was in high school, I had no idea this job existed. After completing my medical education abroad, I was hoping to continue practicing in Canada as a doctor, however my plans did not go as I had hoped. I began searching for alternative careers that still allowed me to use my medical knowledge and help patients at the same time. I came across this position by chance and have been extremely happy knowing that my skills are being used in a meaningful way.

What activities do you like to do outside of work?

I really enjoy traveling, I have visited more than 42 countries so far and still have a long list to complete! I also love shopping, going out with friends and watching movies with really bad reviews. In my free time I volunteer as a doctor’s assistant at a local medical clinic where I ask patient’s questions about their health and history before the doctor comes in to see them. This helps me to keep my clinical skills up to date.

What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?

In addition to working hard for good grades, it is very important to have interpersonal and communication skills, so try to engage in extracurricular activities that allow you to interact with a wide range of people, be part of a team, and have the opportunity to speak in front of others. These opportunities will build the skills that are needed for anyone wanting to succeed in this career.

CurioCity Careers

We hope you enjoyed learning about this great STEM career! The information in this career profile was provided by this individual especially for CurioCity. We hope it helped give you a sense of what this type of job is really like.

Let’s Talk Science is pleased to provide you with this information as you explore future career options. Many careers require a background in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Even jobs that don’t use specific STEM concepts on a day-to-day basis benefit from the skills gained through a study of STEM. People with a STEM background are very much in demand by employers across all career sectors. If you would like to learn about more careers that have a STEM connection, visit