Bone Marrow Registration in Minority Communities
The importance of minority bone marrow registration
Amongst many, we have been considered the chosen few to undertake the task of learning about and practicing the greatest art known to mankind…medicine. One of our responsibilities associated with the "white coat" is to lead by example, leaving our mark in time that may traverse the fade of a name or face. We do this by propelling the science of medicine to a higher level, by ensuring the presence of the future and reviving our own desires as humanitarians.
The variability of disease continually changes throughout time, but the scope of medicine remains the same. According to the National Cancer Institute, the incidence of blood dyscrasias in children under the age of 15 has increased since the 1970s. Many of these disorders present both throughout childhood and adulthood can be treated with a marrow or blood stem cell transplant.
The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) maintains a database of over 5 million potential donors that is accessed worldwide looking for the "perfect" match; each person searching for the light in a seemingly infinite tunnel. However, even the world’s largest bone marrow registry can not save lives without the support of volunteers…including you and me. The number of minority participants grows continually each year, with a paralleled increase in demand. Even though family members are screened for matches the majority of patients require an unrelated donor. Genetically, greater compatibility can be found within ethnic groups, thereby enhancing the need from minorities.
Programs have been established to increase awareness in communities with emphasis on African Americans, American Indian/Alaskan Natives, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics. The percentage of matches amongst minorities is significantly lower than those among Caucasians, mainly due to the number of minority versus Caucasian participants. However, much of the discrepancy between the number of "life savers" and recipients is masked under a veil of ignorance. A study published by Laver et al. (2001) at the Medical University of South Carolina attributes low minority registration to: lack of knowledge correlating transplantation to survival, the cost of donations, and opportunities to donate. Our job is educate and encourage volunteers with special emphasis on groups at increased risk.
Anyone between the ages of 18-60 and in good health can be a donor. Registration can be completed by contacting an NMDP donor center or recruitment group in your area. With a health questionnaire and sample of blood, you may possess what it takes to help someone foresee a brighter tomorrow.
For more information, please visit the National Marrow Donor Program Web site.
Interested in Organizing a Minority Bone Marrow Registration Drive?
MIC (thanks to Michelle Khan) has developed a manual (Word, 226KB) that guides you through the process. Below is the information contained in the manual.