College of Pharmacy hosts bone marrow drive

April 5, 2017 | Pharmacy |

Students in the College of Pharmacy hosted a bone marrow drive April 5-8 in the Liberty Room of the David B. Burks American Heritage Building. The drive was designed to add new participants to the national registry that matches potential donors to recipients in need. Through the organization Delete Blood Cancer, students, faculty and staff gave information and DNA in the form of a cheek swab to be placed on the national bone marrow registry. College of Pharmacy students were set up in the Liberty Room and the Student Center Wednesday-Saturday from 8-5.

To enroll in the donor registry, participants use a swab to collect cells from the inside of their cheek. Approximately one in 300 people will be chosen as the best possible match for a patient, and one in 430 people will actually donate their bone marrow.

A bone marrow transplant consists of replacing damaged bone marrow and stem cells with healthy bone marrow and stem cells. In the weeks leading up to the transplant, patients receive intense chemotherapy that wipes out their immune systems before the process of transplanting can occur.

Fourth year pharmacy students Hannah Fox and Ryan Noel have been planning the event for their required health and wellness project since school began.

“This [project] is something unique through the College of Pharmacy,” Noel said. “This is something specifically done here at Harding to help the community. You won’t see that everywhere else.”

Noel has volunteered to help with the event twice before and jumped at the opportunity to help again this year, and Fox experienced firsthand the life-saving impact of a bone marrow transplant through her grandfather.

“Someone out there donated to someone else that they didn’t know, and now my grandpa is getting to see me graduate,” Fox said. “There’s all kinds of people out there you don’t know who you could help just by doing this one thing.”

Chike Ononogbu, fourth-year pharmacy student, was born in Nigeria, grew up in the Netherlands, and moved to the U.S. when he started his undergraduate degree in Connecticut. On a visit to Dallas in 2015, Ononogbu attended church with his sister and went through the quick process of putting his name in bone marrow registry. About a year later, he was notified he had been matched with someone who had leukemia.

“It takes like 30 seconds to donate, and you have the potential to save someone’s life,” he said. “It is such a rewarding opportunity.”

In March 2016, cognitive neuroscience major Jacob McAlister was walking through the Heritage Building when he noticed the same bone marrow drive taking place. He thought it was something he would be interested in doing, so he went through the process of adding his name to the registry. Six months later, he was notified that he was the closest match to someone.

“The whole time, I thought, ‘If this was happening to me or someone in my family, I would want somebody to be willing to give,’” McAlister said. “As a Christian, I believe all of that worked out because it was part of God’s plan. If I am healthy enough and able to give, I don’t think there’s any reason why I shouldn’t.”

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