This fall, Ross Medical Education Center in Brighton, Michigan welcomed Caitlin Gallagher from Michigan Blood’s Be the Match registry to discuss bone marrow donation. Students from the Pharmacy Technician program, Dental Assistant program, Medical Assistant program, and Medical Insurance Billing and Office Administration program joined with faculty and staff to hear the presentation.
The staff, faculty, and students were moved by the opening video depicting the story of a match success. Baby Clara received a donation from a football player that saved her life. The video drove home the importance of the registry as it strives to serve patients with leukemia, sickle cell anemia, and other blood cancers. Every three minutes someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer, according to Caitlin. Students were shocked at the number and were eager to help.
During the presentation, Caitlin explained there is currently a need for diverse potential donors as more than 70% of the donors on the registry are caucasian. Medical Assistant student Madison Yates was pleased to learn the transplant “can completely cure blood cancers in the recipient.” To join the registry, students just needed to swab their cheeks, drop the swabs in an envelope, and complete an application form. Another Medical Assistant student, Caleb Meloche, was surprised to find out that “anyone in the world, regardless of any factors, can donate.”
Caitlin travels all over the state of Michigan to educate potential donors between the ages of 18-44 about the importance of joining the registry. Ross is an important partner of Be the Match and Caitlin travels to each Michigan location twice a year to educate Ross students. She informs them of the importance of the registry and how they can help patients in need. Caitlin explained the process which is based on HLA tissue type rather than blood type. If a person is a potential match, they go through extensive testing to ensure they are a healthy candidate. Dental Assistant Ashley Shelton said the most surprising fact she learned was that “the (recipient’s) blood type will be changed forever after the transplant.” All expenses for the donor are paid by the organization, including lost wages, travel expenses, meals, and hotel stays. Donors may bring a support person with them as well. Caitlyn went on to explain that matches are made all over the world, and volunteers are also needed to courier the bone marrow to hospitals.
Since the Be the Match partnership with Ross began in 2013, over 1,700 Ross Medical students and staff have registered! One hundred Ross students and staff have been chosen as good matches and seven have donated so far. Ross actually received the Community Advocacy Award at the Be the Match golf outing in 2015 for their dedicated partnership with this important organization. The Ross Brighton family has a special place in their heart for bone marrow transplants, as Medical Assistant Instructor Lisa Smego’s husband went through the lifesaving procedure several years ago. Seventeen students, faculty, and staff from the Brighton campus signed up for the registry this time.
For more information on Be the Match contact Caitlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.