Transplant surgeon Anthony Watkins holds a special place in Wanda Harris-Lopez's life.

In 2009, she began experiencing symptoms and was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, which caused serious damage to her kidneys and pancreas.

"My eyes were blurry," Harris-Lopez said. "I couldn't walk."

After two-and-a-half years on dialysis, waiting for an organ donor, Watkins successfully transplanted a kidney and pancreas from a deceased donor.

For Harris-Lopez, asking for loved ones to be a living kidney donor wasn't even an option.

"They have this, they have high blood pressure, they have — I didn't want to hear that, I just didn't want to hear it. It's ok, I'm just going to go through my struggles," she said.

Not burdening others with their health issues is a common thread within the black community, where health disparities persist, such as higher-than-average rates of diabetes.

"We as African-Americans have the highest incidence of organ failure," said Watkins, an abdominal transplant surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. "[That means] we have the highest need and the highest demand, yet we are the most reluctant to donate."

In 2017, 564 African-Americans in the state received transplants, but only 80 donors were black. 3,119 African-Americans were waiting for organs in 2017.

Across the country, the trend is the same: There are more black organ recipients than donors. Watkins points to the deeply ingrained distrust of the medical system among African-Americans — a consequence of the country's history of discrimination.

"Which leads to a decrease in organ donation. That also leads to a decrease in them visiting physicians," Watkins said. "For them to have preventative strategies."

More organ donors are needed, and New York has one of the lowest registered donor rates. While organ recipients can receive from donors of any race, they are more likely to match with someone from a similar ethnic background.

"So it's really incumbent upon us to come forward to be donors so we can help each other so we can have healthier communities," Watkins said.