Minority bone marrow is in short supply nationally, prompting the drive. In a continuing effort to increase awareness about the need for more minority bone marrow donors, Asian fraternity Lambda Phi Epsilon began its annual minority bone marrow drive yesterday. Thirty-six students filled out forms and gave blood in order to be registered in the National Marrow Donor Program on the first day of the drive at the newly opened Veranda event center at 3615 Locust Walk. It continues today at Logan Hall. The drive was planned in conjunction with Penn's Asian Pacific American Heritage Week, which is sponsored by the Asian Pacific Student Coalition. The drive began six years ago, prompted by an incident in which a brother in the national fraternity had leukemia and could not find a donor. The national fraternity instituted the drive in order to increase the diversity of the registry, said Wharton junior Howard Yeh, the fraternity's community service chairperson. Even though more than 3 million Americans are signed up as bone-marrow donors, not many of them are minorities. According to the National Marrow Donor Program, only about 8 percent of registered donors are African American; 6 percent are Asian/Pacific Islander; 2 percent are Native American; and 7 percent are Hispanic. The relatively small number of minority donors in the registry is of concern because the chances of finding a bone-marrow match are much higher if the patient and the donor are of the same ethnic heritage. "There is a desperate need to try and diversify the national registry," said Alice Kaplan, the bone-marrow recruitment manager for the Pennsylvania-New Jersey Red Cross, whose volunteers took blood and talked to students about the process of bone-marrow donation. "For minority patients, the chances of finding donors are much less than for for Caucasians. And if they don't find a match, they usually die." "We need more Asian Americans, African Americans, and all minority groups, but especially multicultural and mixed people," she added. At any time, about 3,000 people are looking for bone-marrow donors, but many of them don't find matches, she said. The Red Cross helps by getting volunteers and entering them into the national registry, which is maintained by the government-funded National Marrow Donor Program. Last year, of the 7,335 transplants that the program facilitated, only about 13 percent of them were to minorities. According the program, a person with leukemia has about an 80 percent chance of finding a bone marrow donor through the registry. The chance of finding a donor for minorities is around 60 percent. Organizers said they were confident that many more students would show up today as the drive continues in Logan Hall. "I didn't even know that this was going on until one of my friends in the fraternity grabbed me," said College sophomore Jeff Kim. Although Kim expressed some concerns about actually donating bone marrow, he explained that he still considers bone-marrow donations to be important. "If they called me next week to give marrow, I don't know what I would do," he said. "I'd probably have to think about it, but it's not like donating blood. I think that bone marrow helps a lot more." College freshman Yuiha Pow had the same thought about being asked to donate marrow. "My first thought would be, 'Yes, how long will it take?'," she said. "I've heard that it's really painful but if it would really benefit someone, I think I would do it," she added.
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