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Be the Match chapter comes to UI campus

BY MEGAN DEPPE | SEPTEMBER 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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The University of Iowa has become the first college campus in the state to establish a chapter of Be The Match, a national registry for bone-marrow donors. The national project Project Marrow has been in place at UIHC for the past 10 years. Be The Match is the recruiting branch that will encourage a broader student participation.

The 25-year-old foundation works to connect patients with blood cancers — such as leukemia and lymphoma — to donors for a marrow or umbilical-cord transplant. Julee Darner, the Donor Services Coordinator at the UI’s Marrow Donor Program, said she was encouraged by the group of student volunteers who make up Be The Match program.

“If it was ever going to happen,” Darner said, “it would happen with them.” Students in the Be The Match chapter help recruit fellow students through events. Jake Dillard, the co-president, said that chapter members attend meetings with pre-med students and explain the program, as well as host blood drives at the university.

Doug Beardsley, the director of Johnson County Public Health, did not return calls seeking comment as of Tuesday evening. A number of such recruiting tools including the UI Dance Marathon, held in February, as well as a weeklong blood drive in November. A return visit from Jim Munroe, an illusionist who performed at an on-campus event two years ago and inspired Dillard to join, will also take place.

“I just immediately connected with his faith and his message,” Dillard said. “I joined that same night.” All these events have been greeted with enthusiasm from Darner, who added that Dance Marathon usually inspires a lot of students to join Project Marrow.

“They [Be The Match chapter] just took this idea and ran with it,” Darner said. The group’s local chapter is also trying to spread its message to other campuses in Iowa in hopes that they will open their own chapters. Iowa State University applied on Sept. 20 to have its own chapter on campus, Darner said.

They are particularly interested in attracting a diverse group. “We are very lucky to have a large campus of international students,” Darner said.

In fact, the national Be The Match group says that there are not nearly enough registry members of a diverse racial and ethnic heritage. Their national numbers state that only 7 percent of African Americans and 10 percent of Hispanics or Latinos usually donate. More than 67 percent of donors are white. Project Marrow’s research showed that patients who received a transplant from a younger donor had a more successful transplant. Statistics from the national Be The Match organization say that ninety percent of the time, doctors request donors between the ages of 18 and 44.

Members of the local Be The Match registry will be entered into a worldwide database, where their blood might be a match for just about anyone. “My heritage is mostly German, so I would be likely to match a patient in Germany,” Darner said as an example.

Students at UI who join the registry still have a high chance of being a donor for someone within the United States as well, sometimes for a patient right here at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Those who are interested in registering for the Be The Match chapter and Project Marrow program can log on to www.bethematch.org, as well as contact the UI Donor Office at the UI Hospital Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“I think the really amazing thing is that people in Iowa could have an impact anywhere in the world,” Darner said.


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