Feinberg Students Recruit Blood Donors through Red Cross Club
Second-year student and Red Cross Club co-president Jennifer Choi (right) sits down with Jaclyn Mallon, medical technologist from the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Blood Bank (center), and donor Erin Elmore, program assistant in the Faculty Affairs Office at Feinberg (left), at a recent blood drive.
Only 38 percent of the population is eligible to give blood and only a fraction of those actually donate. Yet blood donors often aid in saving the life of recipients. As part of a medical community, members of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Red Cross Club know that their role in hosting blood drives and helping to increase the amount of blood available proves so important to patients.
“A regular blood donor since high school, I have always been interested in the mission of the Red Cross,” says Jennifer Choi, a second-year medical student and co-president of Feinberg’s Red Cross Club. “Blood products are certainly vital to patients’ healthcare in hospitals.”
Choi and fellow M2 and co-president Beth Schweighofer coordinate multiple blood drives throughout the year and serve as the liaison between the American Red Cross and the medical school.
“Our job includes finding a space to hold the drive, advertising, recruiting donors, and working at the registration desk on the day of a drive,” says Choi, who also receives help from several other medical student volunteers.
To recruit donors, the club offers giveaways such as Red Cross t-shirts and cafeteria vouchers provided by Northwestern Memorial Hospital. E-mailing announcements, though, has proven the most successful way of reaching potential donors.At each bimonthly drive, approximately 35 donors from the Northwestern and greater Chicago communities — medical and law students, faculty, and staff members — participate. Nurses from the American Red Cross collect about 30 to 45 units of blood. One unit can benefit several people, as its components (red blood cells, platelets, and so on) can be separated and used independently.
This blood is essential to the treatment and management of many diseases. Disorders like hemophilia require regular blood transfusions to replace deficient blood components and prevent patients from bleeding to death from even the most minor injuries. Major surgeries may also result in a great deal of blood loss, and so, patients may need several units of blood transfused during the operation. Since there are currently no suitable synthetic blood products, healthcare providers must rely on blood donations.
“It’s so important to have a regular supply of fresh units of blood because they expire after a certain number of days,” says Choi, who emphasizes how proud each donor should feel about their contribution. “Often a couple of units of blood are the difference between life and death.”