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Designed For Action: Nursing Major Leads a Team to Promote Bone Marrow Registries

June 06, 2022
Morgan Sauers and friends

At York College, students aren’t just reading textbooks and listening to lectures. They’re working on community projects, solving real-world problems, and using their education to effect change. In Designed for Action, we meet the students who are making an impact outside of the classroom.

First-year Nursing major Morgan Sauers wants you to know something that can help save lives. She is leading an effort to organize bone marrow registries called Be the Match and says it is important to understand why they are so desperately needed.

Why is a Bone Marrow Registry needed?

Morgan explains those suffering from blood cancers like leukemia and other related diseases cannot produce platelets, white blood cells, or red blood cells.

“It is important for donors to be closely matched to patients in need of a bone marrow donation to ensure that the stem cells will successfully be accepted by the patient’s body,” she says. Spreading awareness about this issue is necessary to understand why a large and diverse population of adults on the registry is “key to increasing the number of patients that can be matched with a donor.” 

Morgan learned about Be the Match through a First-Year Seminar class at York College where students were presented with three different community partners and potential projects. Be the Match is part of the College’s Changemakers program and formed through the First-Year Seminar as a long-term project. Cody Miller, Director of Services Initiatives, Center for Community Engagement, and Professor Kenneth Slaysman helped Morgan and her team develop their project by guiding them through the planning and development process.

Morgan spent time in class discovering how to develop and sustain service projects and says Miller and Dr. Slaysman taught students how to do these things and provided feedback on ideas. As a Nursing major, Morgan jumped at the chance to be involved with the Be The Match project. She believes the medical field has many opportunities for improvement and development, and she wanted “to do my part in helping to save lives of patients in need of help from their community.”  

She is working with fellow students Donasia “Asia” Ruffin ’25, Vannessa Danquah ’25, Allison “Allie” Smith ’25, Emma Wade ’25, Brenna Meaney ’25, Marcos Repolle ’25, and Nolan Hubbs ’25. “Our work involves holding Bone Marrow Registries on the York College campus in order to spread awareness of how we can help those with blood cancers and increase the number of people and tissue types on the registry,” she says 

People can join the registry if they are between the ages of 18 and 44 and meet specific health requirements. At a registry event, those who are interested in joining take a couple minutes to scan a QR code to sign up on the registry, swab their cheek, and seal an envelope with the swabs. One out of 420 potential donors on the list are matched with a donor, to whom they can then go donate blood stem cells.

Replacing those who fall off the list

A problem, according to Morgan, is that many potential donors are falling off the list, meaning they are no longer able to be potential donors after the age of 61. Be the Match has two initiatives: 1) to increase the number of adults ages 18 to 22 on the registry, and 2) to lower racial disparities and increase the diversity of donors on the registry. Statistics show that 50% of patients cannot find a matched donor in their family and look to the list to find one. While 79% of white patients can find a match, 60% of Native Americans, 48% of Hispanic or Latinos, 47% of Asian or Pacific Islanders, and only 29% Black or African Americans find a match.

Morgan has been delighted with the interest and concern that fellow students have shown regarding the issue. During the initial registry in April, she says, “almost all of the people who passed by came up to our table to learn about our cause and decided to take the three minutes to sign up on the registry and swab their cheek.” The team’s goal was to have 50 people sign up. After just three hours, 65 York College students became new registry members. 

The biggest challenge facing Morgan’s team is figuring out the best methods of reaching the most students and young adults in the community to influence them to sign up on the registry. She says, “Our team hopes to tackle this challenge by splitting up modes of communication to reach as many people as we can.” 

She is proud of her team and the volunteers who helped out on the day of the first registry. She hopes to continue to build the volunteer base of this project in the future by partnering with clubs and athletic teams at York College. “I believe that building a strong base of volunteers helps to create a positive and friendly environment surrounding our registries, which results in more students and young adults signing up on the registry,” she says.

Since Morgan is studying to be a Registered Nurse, this project has and will continue to introduce her to operations and initiatives in the medical field. In the future, her team is hoping to hold registries at York Hospital, which will help in connecting them to those working in the medical field. She looks forward to meeting staff at York Hospital and other community members as her team continues to spread awareness. 

Follow @ycp_marrowformore on Instagram to stay updated with registry dates and volunteer opportunities, or visit BeTheMatch.org to learn more about the cause.