Nursing students from York’s Faculty of Health challenged people all over campus to “Get Swabbed!” recently. In doing so, they registered 167 potential new donors.
“Get Swabbed!” was the third annual, Canada-wide university challenge to gather the most potential stem cell donors to add to the OneMatch stem cell and marrow network. In 2011, more than 7,500 donors were added to the network, which is still severely lacking in ethnically diverse male donors aged 17 to 35 – the ideal stem cell candidates as determined by the international stem cell network.
From left, Mohamed Sheksalah, FHSC secretary & internal affairs; Valerie St. Denis, NSAY vice-president; Aishat Agboluaje, NSAY outreach coordinator; Allyson Harvey, NSAY social coordinator; and Karolina Chelminiak, OneMatch coordinator for Central Ontario
Registrants were taught how to correctly swab their cheeks by Faculty of Health nursing students, members of the Nursing Students Association at York (NSAY) and the Faculty of Health Student Caucus (FHSC).Volunteers walked around campus looking for male donors and used humorous signs to grab the attention of passersby, ultimately directing them to the East Bear Pit in Central Square where the event took place.
“The event was a really fun way to gain practical experience performing health teaching. It was also a good way for students to learn how to raise awareness about critical health issues,” says Aishat Agboluaje, NSAY outreach coordinator.
According to OneMatch, fewer than 30 per cent of patients requiring stem cell transplants are able to find a match within their family. Matches have to be incredibly precise due to the nature of the diseases that the cells are used for. Specific cancers (leukemia, myeloma, lymphoma), bone marrow deficiency diseases (sickle cell anemia), aplastic anemia, immune system deficiencies and metabolic disorders all require stem cell transplants. Stem cells are immature cells that “grow up” to become red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets
“The idea of so many people on the waiting list for stem cells inspired me to spread the word[…]because York has a huge population of diverse ethnic groups of young men and women. I thought the event would be a nice way to enlighten students and show them how easy it would be to make a difference in someone’s life,” says Agboluaje.
- Seventy-seven per cent of stem cells used by Canadian patients in 2006 were imported from other countries, because there is a higher likelihood of a match from within the same ethnicity, which has similar genetic markers.
- Currently, 75 per cent of the Canadian OneMatch database is Caucasian, and only 10 per cent is male, which is why the organization has put out a call for ethnically diverse male donors.