Saving Lives by Recruiting Donors, Reaching Minorities

Be The Match is working on ways to find more bone marrow donors to save people from diseases like leukemia.

Recently Be The Match and Erica Jensen, senior vice president of member engagement, enrollment and experience, organized a drive to recruit blood stem cell donors. She was surprised when 500 students joined the registry, more than she had ever gotten from a university before.

Arthur Wei
Arthur Wei

Be The Match has formed partnerships with many universi-ties and has completed more than 6,000 transplants as of 2021. Be The Match also works with Blue Cross Blue Shield to create dona-tion drives. It works with a diverse number of organizations, sharing its story on social media and local news sites.

The difference in the chances of finding a donor for a white patient compared to a Black patient is significant. Statistics show that 79 percent of white patients find donors, while only 29 percent of Black patients find a donor.

Be The Match has increased the chances of finding a donor for Black patients from 23 percent in 2021 to 29 percent in 2022.

Jensen said this difference is largely because African communities don’t trust the health care system. Be The Match is working on changing this percentage gap by connecting with the ethnic communities.

There are also other obstacles to finding donors, she said.

The chance of one person being able to donate to another is very low. This is because people have their own unique DNA, which is connected to their ethnic back-ground. The chances of a person being able to donate to a member of the same family is 30 percent.

Another problem is deliver-ability. After Be The Match finds a matched donor, it needs to get that person to agree to donate. The donor must undergo thorough physical exams and the donating process itself.

Be The Match has upgraded its donor experience, communicating its thanks to voluntary donors.

Jensen said, “If I get a birthday card from my dentist, I don’t really care that the dentist knows my birthday. It was them trying to share that they appreciate me.” Be The Match pays all necessary costs and thanks every individual personally.

Jensen added Be The Match is working on making the donating experience painless. While 85 per-cent of all blood stem cell donations are done by a needle in the arm and are virtually painless, some dona-tions require a needle to go into the hip bone. She said that there is minimal pain after the process, and the aftereffects can be reduced with a couple pain relievers.

Not everyone will be able to donate, Jensen said. However, just being on the registry helps increase the chances of finding a match — and saving a life.

Here are the steps to donate bone marrow through Be The Match:

• Be 18 to 40 years old (anyone inside the range will be best able to recover from the transplant).

• Join on its website at

• Do a swab inside the cheeks with a kit mailed to you from Be The Match.

• Wait for a match.