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August 28, 1999
Young Pros Help Marrow Donation Drive
Paula Shah in Seattle
Premal Patel, an MD/Ph D student at the University of Washington, is a great admirer of John Sanford, the late Seattle superintendent of schools, who continued to work for the school system despite his failing health and made Seattle schools one of the best in the nation.
But she is also saddened that Sanford, like many other people, had to die from a type of an incurable cancer. Her own father was also diagnosed with leukemia a few years ago.
Today, Premal Patel is one of the more active minority people working to create awareness about leukemia and to seek support for bone marrow donation. She is working with a number of younger Indian Americans through the National Marrow Donation Project and the Network of Indian Professionals in her state.
The NMDP is 'Celebrating Second Chances' each September, which is National Marrow Awareness Month. This is a time when the NMDP recognizes all the people and dedicated efforts that help make the treatment of marrow transplantation a successful option for patients. Scores of Indian American volunteers like Premal Patel are working with a number of organizations connected with NMDP. One such organization is the New York based South Asian Marrow Association of Recruiters.
For those leukemia patients who are not cured by chemotherapy, the next option is a bone marrow transplant, since the donor bone marrow can regenerate healthy blood cells. For this procedure to be successful and to avoid rejection, the recipient must be genetically similar to the bone marrow donor. Thus, for the most part a minority individual (say an Indian or Pakistani or an African American) must be matched with the same minority group.
The NMDP, which was created in 1987, provides marrow transplants to patients in need. Currently, it maintains a registry of 3.3 million volunteers for potential marrow donation, but only 25,000 are of south Asian origin. Since a match is found 1 in 20,000 from the same racial group, our patients' chances are grim. It is vital that South Asians make a personal commitment to become involved in saving the lives of our patients.
So an organized effort has to be made to increase the number of south Asian volunteer and donors, says Rafiya Peerbhoy Khan, a specialist on tissue rejection with a long-term involvement in the transplant field who set up SAMAR in 1992.
A prominent board of directors and a dedicated team of volunteers are a major part of this group.
SAMAR is focused on south Asian population that comprises of people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, East Africa, Guyana, Afghanistan and all people of south Asian origin. Since 1992, SAMAR has contacted several thousand people during religious, social, business gatherings, and students at educational institutes. It has recruited more than 15,000 volunteers.
Its goal is to increase the number of volunteers to 50,000 in about five years. Today there are 35 patients awaiting a transplant, while four have been transplanted during the past year.
Patel has plans to create SAMAR-like groups in her state and other northwestern states. Meanwhile, she is active in the NMDP too.
"One of the major goal this year has been to augment the awareness for the national bone marrow registry," she says. She is working in collaboration with the Puget Sound Blood Center to educate individuals in the South Asian community about the marrow registry.
At meetings and festivals of South Asians, her group seeks to convey the message of the urgent need for bone marrow donations. And she is interested in forging links with other South Asian groups who are interested in the cause.
For those who think the procedure for donation is complicated, Patel reminds that it simply involves the contribution of two tablespoons of blood that will be examined to determine its basic genetic composition.
The results of the test will be stored in a computer, and if at some point in the future, if a cancer patient has a similar genetic make up as the donor and is need of a bone marrow transplant, the donor will be contacted.
For more information about NetIP's Seattle group contact Kazan Waugh, work: (206) 320-9613, home: (206) 320-9613, email@example.com; Premal Patel, (206) 543-0557, home: (425) 883-9538, firstname.lastname@example.org; or Meenu Walia, cell: (206) 579-4495, Wsddillio@aol.com.
SAMAR is holding a number of drives next month.
On September 1, 10.30 am to 4.30 pm, Samar volunteers and doctors will be at UMDNJ-NJMS, 185 South Orange Ave (MSB A-555 Medical School Grand Foyer University Heights), Newark, NJ 07103.
On September 20, 11 am to 5 pm, a drive will be held at the St Peters University Hospital, 254 Easton Ave New Brunswick, NJ 08901.
For further information contact SAMAR: (718) 592-0821 or email@example.com
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