The U.S. Naval Academy partnered with the C.W. Bill Young DoD Marrow Donor Program April 25 and 26 to conduct a registration drive in memory of Midshipman 1st Class Jason Jablonski, who passed away last year due to complications stemming from leukemia.
Midshipmen from the Naval Academy Medicine Club, Midshipman Action Group (MAG) and Men’s Ice Hockey team organized the bone marrow drive on campus.
“I am impressed by the amount of questions midshipmen have been asking leading up to the drive to make sure they are able to make an educated decision on if they should register,” said Midshipman 1st Class Katelyn Shinavski, a member of MAG. “This shows their great level of commitment and calling to serve others in need.”
Midshipmen, staff, faculty and family members volunteered to have their DNA collected from a cheek swab and entered into the National Marrow Donor Registry to be available as a potential match for someone in need of a life-saving transplant.
“This year we are not as much counting the numbers,” said Miriam Stanicic, USNA community relations director. “It's more about the commitment when someone gets the call, and that's why it has to be a purely volunteer effort. We know that midshipmen are very benevolent with their time, with their energy, and with their outreach to the community. Because this is offered through the DoD, it's a good way to give back.”
The swab samples are sent to the C.W. Bill Young Donor Center in Rockville, Maryland for testing and registration. It is here that the DNA information is coded and stored in the Defense Department and National Marrow Donor Program registries.
“We do between 400 to 600 transplants a year, all from DoD donors within our database,” said Dr. Jennifer Ng, director of the DoD Bone Marrow Program. “That is quite significant because the whole U.S. does about 6,000 a year, so 10 percent of that donation comes just from the DoD.”
The C.W. Bill Young DoD Marrow Donor Center, has been in operation since 1991 and works exclusively with military personnel and their dependents, DoD civilian employees, Reservists, Coast Guard and National Guard members to facilitate marrow and stem cell donations.
“I am inspired by the willingness of the Brigade of Midshipmen to volunteer for such a noble cause,” said Midshipman 2nd Class Ted Johnson, president of the USNA Medical Club. “I am proud of the work that members of both the Navy Medicine Club and Midshipman Action Group have done to spread awareness of the drive, its purpose, and its incredible effects on the lives of others.”
According to the center, more than 12,000 people are diagnosed each year with diseases that require an infusion of stem cells. More than 70 percent of blood cancer patients are unable to find an appropriate match within their own family and will require an unrelated donor.
Due to drives like these there are more opportunities and more donors to choose from, leading to life saving transplants for more patients.