Fraternity Raise Awareness of Low Number of Asian-American Bone Marrow Donors

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    By Diego Loera
    Diversity Reporter

    In 1998, the Asian-interest fraternity Lambda Phi Epsilon lost a member to leukemia. This inspired members to raise awareness about the low number of registered Asian-American donors for bone marrow transplants.

    The fraternity brothers hope to continue raising awareness with their event “Wii Can Save a Life,” which will be hosted at the Colleges Nine/Ten Multipurpose Room this Saturday. At the event, the fraternity will have a drawing to give away a Nintendo Wii. The lack of Asian-American donors is something worth acting upon, said Jason Hikida, the former president of Lambda Phi Epsilon.

    “We are hoping that our event helps increase the number of Asians in the registry for bone marrow transplant,” Hikida said. “I am not exactly sure which specific races had the larger size registries, but Caucasians had the most.”

    Hikida, the fraternity, and Jesse Lam, the community service chairman of Lambda Phi Epsilon and coordinator of the event, have been raising awareness about this issue for a decade along with the Asian-American Donor Program (AADP).

    In many Asian cultures, a tradition of respect for the deceased extends to protecting the body from harm. This view does not support organ donations.

    A prerequisite for the bone marrow transplant in Asian recipients is that the donor be of Asian descent as well. Unfortunately, because the list of registered Asian-American donors is small, by the time they found a donor for the ill fraternity member, it was too late.

    That is why Lam and Hikida are focused on raising awareness about the risks that are becoming apparent with the scarcity of Asian-Americans currently registered as donors.

    “The more people in the registry, the higher the chances of finding the match,” Lam said.

    Hikida hopes that the event will inspire attendees to register as donors and consider donating bone marrow.

    “Who knows?” Hikida said. “Maybe one of them will donate bone marrow and save a person’s life.”

    Through collaborations with associations like the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA), the Filipino Student Association (FSA) and the Greek organizations Sigma Omicron Pi and Alpha Kappa Delta Phi, the event will offer food, music, prize giveaways and speakers on the issue of bone marrow donation.

    Lam and Hikida encourage students to show up to the event and learn about people who need transplants.

    “You give an option to the person needing the bone marrow,” Lam said. “The more [donors] you have, the more options they have.”

    Robert Imada, program coordinator for the Asian-American/Pacific Islander Resource Center (APIRC), supports the event.

    “I think that events such as these are important because it raises awareness among [Asian-American/Pacific Islander] communities,” Imada said. “They may seem like small-scale movements, but they create a ripple effect on students’ consciousness.”