PA students support bone marrow registry

By on October 12, 2011

Quinnipiac students last Thursday recognized that an estimated 22,000 adults and 700 children in the United States will lose their lives to leukemia this year, according to the Institute for Justice, an American Civil Liberties firm. More than 44,000 other Americans are diagnosed with the fatal disease each year.

To celebrate National Physician’s Assistant Day on Oct. 6, the Quinnipiac physician assistant program promoted a bone marrow drive on the Mount Carmel campus to raise awareness and find individuals willing to become part of the cure.

PA students obtained cheek swabs from participants to determine if they are a potential donor match.

Stephanie Hull, a second-year student in Quinnipiac’s graduate PA program spearheaded the event titled “Be the Match: A Bone Marrow Drive.”

“We are trying to improve the registry so that we have more opportunity to find matches,” Hull said. “Bone marrow matches and transplants are the best way to provide people with a cure.”

In terms of a bone marrow transplant, by replacing the infected cells in a patient’s body with the healthy cells of a donor, patients are given a second chance at life.

However, finding a match that fits close enough with an individual’s genetic makeup can be extremely difficult, and thousands of people in need of transplants are unsuccessful in their search for a donor every year.

Bone marrow matches are found within a patient’s family only 30 percent of the time, and the chance of finding a match for the other 70 percent is touch and go.

According to the Institute for Justice, this issue is particularly prevalent among minority groups; multiracial patients face the worst odds of finding a match. African-Americans are able to find an unrelated match only 25 percent of the time, Asians 40 percent, Hispanics 45 percent, and Caucasians 75 percent of the time.

Statistically, donating bone marrow is safe, and a transplant can save the life. But more than 1,000 patients on the registry die every year, still waiting for a match.

Jillian Lay, an undergraduate PA student, made the choice to join the registry after viewing a presentation from the president of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

“A woman spoke to us who underwent a bone marrow transplant, and it saved her life,” Lay said.

According to Lay, the presentation along with the information she has learned as an aspiring health care professional made joining the bone marrow donation registry an easy decision.

Those who missed the event can still donate, Hull said.

Those interested in joining the registry can visit beamatch.com, sign up, and send in a cheek swab. In return, participants who donate can save a life.

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