In between his Commercial Law and Environmental Law classes last week, Alex Gross, ’16, swung into the lobby of the Kane Center, took his place on the waiting gurney, and held out his arm. The blood donation that followed was quick, easy, and fairly ordinary.
Except for this: His donation was part of a student-led drive to send blood directly to the University of Chicago Medicine Blood Bank instead of a third party organization — a move that reduces costs, guarantees that the blood will remain in the community, and offers students a chance to do good by partnering with another part of campus.
“We’re keeping everything in-house,” said Clara Kim, ’15, one of the student organizers. “Many of the patients who receive blood at the UChicago hospitals are residents of the South Side. If we can make it easier for the hospital to get the resources they need, then we’re helping our own community.”
Less than 5 percent of blood products used in the Medical Center are obtained through blood donations made there; much of the rest comes at a cost from suppliers like the American Red Cross, Lifesource, and Heartland. But the Blood Bank is working to change that, both through campus and community drives and by encouraging people to visit the Medical Center’s Blood Donation Center at 5758 South Maryland Avenue (Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine, DCAM room 2E), as some Law School students already do.
“In the past, other blood centers in the area have come and collected blood from our students, taking it either to other medical centers or bringing it back to us at an increased cost,” said Dr. Geoffrey Wool, a transfusion medicine fellow at the University’s Department of Pathology. “We want to keep the blood right here at home. People who donate can feel a more direct connection with the patients that we help, which really brings home the benefit of donating.”
The Law School drive started with John Moynihan and Andrew Adair, both ’15, who have been regularly giving blood together at the Blood Donation Center for the past year and a half. Realizing the deep need for blood donations to the Medical Center, they pulled together a grassroots group of students to organize the event, working with the Dean of Students Office and the Blood Donation Center, as well as Jeff Leslie, Director of Clinical and Experiential Learning, who opened up the first floor of the Kane Center for the drive. The Law School’s Neighbors group got involved, devoting hours to marketing the event.
“We're the community service organization, and this expanded the idea of community service, and allowed us to contribute in another way,” said Jamie Schulte, ’15, Neighbors’ vice president. “Since the blood at the Medical Center is used within the community, this is a way for us to give back to the Hyde Park and greater South Side Chicago community.”
Seventy-five potential donors participated in the Law School drive, donating a total of 58 units of blood. The organizers are hoping many of those will become regular donors.
“We want people to know how important it is to donate, and how easy it is to give directly to the hospital,” Moynihan said.
For Gross, the choice to give blood was an obvious one.
“A lot of people say they go to law school to help people, and then they get busy in law school and it is harder to help. But this was totally easy,” he said, as he headed off to Environmental Law. “They bring it right to us — there’s no reason not to do it.”