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Northern Nevada physician encourages community members to share their decision to become a registered organ donor with loved ones

Together with Donor Network West and in recognition of National Doctors’ Day, March 30, 2024, Dr. Dennis Yamamoto shares his wife’s story to raise awareness for organ, eye and tissue donation.

March 27, 2024 (RENO, Nev.) – Reno, Nevada physician, Dennis Yamamoto, MD, married his wife, Mary (Obersky) Yamamoto, in 1973. Both from large families, their wedding boasted a guest list of 375 people and it was a multi-day affair. It was a big start to what would be more than 50 years of marriage as they pursued careers––Dr. Yamamoto in medicine and Mary in social work––raised their twin children and celebrated becoming grandparents to four grandsons.

In February 2020, at the age of 67, Mary died after being struck by a car while walking on the sidewalk in Phoenix, Arizona. Having had the conversation with Mary about her wish to be an organ donor, Dr. Yamamoto persisted in working swiftly with the trauma care providers to ensure his wife’s decision to be an organ donor would be realized. As a result, Mary’s liver saved the life of a mother of three, and her heart and lung tissues were donated to scientific research laboratories.

In recognition of National Doctors’ Day, Saturday, March 30, 2024, Dr. Yamamoto shared his wife’s story with Donor Network West to inspire the northern Nevada community to learn more about the importance of organ donation and to encourage people to discuss their decision to become a registered organ donor with their loved ones early and often.

Dr. Yamamoto is one of the founding physicians of Digestive Health Associates & Center of Reno and has practiced medicine for more than 45 years. In 1978, he witnessed the first liver transplant ever performed in Wisconsin.

“I came home and told Mary about what I had witnessed in the operating room and she said, ‘If anything should happen to me, that is what I want,’” he said. “I never thought that this would be something I’d have to go through. However, the conversation we had 40 years ago about what she wanted stuck in my head, and I did everything possible to ensure she could donate.”

As a nonprofit organ procurement organization, Donor Network West works with transplant centers and hospitals to coordinate the transplantation of life-saving organs throughout northern Nevada and northern California. The organization works with organ donation advocates like Dr. Yamamoto to help educate communities about the life-saving impact of organ, eye and tissue donation.

“Dr. Yamamoto is a strong advocate for organ donation within the northern Nevada physician community and on behalf of Donor Network West, I extend my sincerest gratitude to him for sharing his family’s story,” said Matthew Graves, vice president of tissue operations, Donor Network West. “Joining the organ donor registry is a decision that starts at home––if registered donors speak with their loved ones and have conversations early and often, then we can save more lives through organ, eye and tissue donation.”

Mary was active in her church, supported her children’s schools, volunteered at the food pantry and was an advocate for women’s rights. When asked what he wanted people to know about her, Dr. Yamamoto said she consistently looked out for others.

“She taught our kids to view everyone as someone else’s daughter or son, no matter their background or circumstance,” he said. “She thought about everyone as a human being, first and foremost.”

In his role as a gastroenterologist, Dr. Yamamoto also provides care for several patients who are on the national transplant waiting list and who are transplant recipients. He prepares these patients for the challenging transplantation process.

One organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people and a tissue donor can heal as many as 75 lives. Those interested in learning more about organ, eye and tissue donation, or joining the organ donor registry can visit

March 27, 2024