February 26, 2019

Drive that Saves Lives

Second-year medical students in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) carried on the tradition of hosting a bone marrow registry drive for freshmen at the end of the first-year students’ final hematology/oncology team-based learning session on Feb. 6.

Sophomore Bryce Woods led the third annual event with help from classmates Mary Allison Andrews-Sizemore, Zoey Crystal, Bri LaFerney, Jack Linna, Francesca LoBianco, Lillie Pitts, Brittany Roses, Eli Smith and Katie Stahler. Fellow sophomores Micah Clay and Chris Quesada helped the first-year students understand the importance of volunteer donors by sharing their own stories of how they matched with patients and were able to donate life-saving bone marrow after participating in previous drives.

“Most people have felt the devastating effects of cancer in one way or another, so I always jump at the idea of getting to help in the effort to fight back,” said Woods. He was thrilled when the leader of last year’s drive, John Patterson, now a junior, contacted him about leading this year’s drive.

Two students with swabs for marrow drive registry

College of Medicine freshmen Grace Goode (left) and Katherine Wang prepare to register in the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry. The process involves collecting a saliva sample, which will be used to identify potential matches between registrants and patients from around the world who need life-saving bone marrow transplants.

“To make it even better, the drive is held at the end of a module in which medical school freshmen learn about many disease states of blood and bone marrow,” Woods said. “Then we offer them the opportunity to be entered into the massive National Bone Marrow Donor Program registry so that they may someday enable a patient to receive an effective treatment for their disease.”

The combination of a learning opportunity and chance to give back excited Paige Gocke, who serves as treasurer for the freshman class. “After our Hematology/Oncology module, we not only learned that the variables for a perfect match in bone marrow transplants are immense, but that bone marrow donors are crucial in many treatments,” she said. “As a future physician, I have always desired to make an impact in the world, and if I am able to save someone’s life by being a donor, then I will gladly donate.”

To join the registry, the freshmen completed brief paperwork and used sterile swabs to collect and submit their own saliva samples. The UAMS drives were coordinated through DKMS, an international nonprofit bone marrow donor center affiliated with the National Bone Marrow Donor Program. Well over 200 UAMS medical students have become registered donors.

“It is such a fun experience, and I love that we will get to pass the baton to this class next year so that we can continue to have more and more registered donors from UAMS!” Woods said.


Photos courtesy of Paula McClain, M.A., President, Class of 2022.