The Ross Medical Education Center Ann Arbor, Michigan campus welcomed Caitlin Gallagher from Michigan Blood’s Be the Match registry for bone marrow donation this January. 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.
Caitlin was welcomed by Ross staff, faculty, and students who were moved by a 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.
In the midst of 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. Student Domonique Johnson of the Dental Assistant program was one of the students who volunteered to register, sharing that she was “concerned at the lack of diversity in the donors.” Another student, Rhiannon Pitchford of the Medical Assistant program, shared that she has a diverse background and decided to donate. To join the registry, students just needed to swab their cheeks, drop the swabs in an envelope and complete an application form.
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. All expenses for the donor are paid by the organization, including lost wages, travel expenses, meal hotels. 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 10 have donated so far. Eleven students from the Ann Arbor Campus signed up for the registry this round. Ross actually received the Community Advocacy Award at the Be the Match golf outing in 2015 for their dedicated partnership with this important organization. Ross Ann Arbor students, staff and Instructors are proud to join others in the Ross family to join the registry and help those with blood cancers.