Every spring and fall, the University of New Mexico’s Student Pathology Association (SPA) holds a blood drive on campus that provides blood to thousands of people in need of the vital resource.
On Wednesday, SPA brought the Vitalant, a non-profit organization — previously known as United Blood Services — to conduct a blood drive in the parking lot of Domenici Center in their on-the-go donation bus.
For SPA, the importance of a blood drive comes from the club’s direct interest in blood. It gives medical students and other students from UNM insight to what kind of jobs are associated with pathology and hematology (blood studies).
Allison Price, a UNM medical student and officer for SPA, said that the Pathology Association's main interest is assisting pathology students in their studies. SPA does this through blood drives, organizing shadowing time of practicing pathologists and holding study seminars for first and second-year medical students taking the Step 1 exam of their Medical Licensing Examinations.
“We’re basically trying to help people understand what pathology is, what it looks like and how it’s useful,” said Price.
Price said that scheduling the blood drives usually boils down to the availability of Vitalant and when they can hold a drive at UNM.
Kristen Ludy, a representative for Vitalant, told the Daily Lobo that this particular drive was receiving a high influx of donors. Ludy suggested that this high number of people is more than likely due to the catastrophic Hurricane Dorian which is currently moving over the southeastern coast of the United States and devastated the Bahamas earlier in the week.
For Vitalant and organizations alike, times of crisis becomes priority. Ludy said any blood that has already been tested and processed is sent to the hospitals in the affected area immediately.
“If a hospital calls us — and we always have somebody on call 24/7 — we figure out a way to get it (the blood) to them,” said Ludy. “We put it on planes, we drive it, we’ll go hours. We’ll take it to anybody who needs it.”
During other blood drives, Ludy said they usually don’t have large numbers of people volunteering to donate blood. She emphasized the need for donations not only when the nation is in an emergency, but also in day-to-day life when people are in of need blood.
“Whenever there is an emergency, it’s amazing to see a lot of people come out, but it would be great to see that on a daily basis,” said Ludy.
According to the Community Blood Center, 43,000 pints of blood are donated each year in the U.S. and Canada. The resource is critical when it comes to saving lives as it is estimated that someone in America needs blood every two seconds.
With only 38% of the population able to donate blood, The American Red Cross reports that one donation of blood can save three lives. Vitalant alone provides whole blood, platelets and plasma to over 1,000 hospitals in 40 states and has additional research and educational programs that center around hematology.
If a first time donor feels nervous about donating, both Price and Ludy said there are minimal aftereffects that people experience when they donate blood.
Price said students and non-students should know what the process of donating looks like. Breaking the stereotypes around donating blood would help make the act of giving blood less intimidating.
“I think the most important thing is that they save lives,” said Ludy, “the other thing is that it’s not as scary as it seems.”
SPA is not the only group from UNM that holds blood drives on campus. For more information and to find a blood drive near you, you can visit vitalant.org or redcross.org
Alanie Rael is Co-Sports Editor and a reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AllyRael.