On March 1, 2019, an inaugural blood drive was held at the Simon Fraser University Burnaby campus. The event was organized by the SFU Blood, Organ, and Stem Cell Club, formerly known as SFU Blood For Life.
The blood drive took place in the Lorne Davis Complex from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. with approximately 160 SFU students, faculty, and staff in attendance. Staff from the Canadian Blood Services were also present to administer the blood collection.
The Peak had the opportunity to interview Iman Baharmand, who is the executive director of SFU Blood, Organ, and Stem Cell Club, about the process of organizing SFU’s first-ever blood drive.
Baharmand shared with The Peak that the Canadian healthcare system “relies on blood donors who selflessly roll up their sleeves and donate,” so it’s important that the SFU community come out and support this event.
“It can take 50 units of blood to help a car crash victim so donating quite literally saves lives,” said Baharmand.
According to Baharmand, the blood-drawing process only takes approximately 5–10 minutes but the entire process can be an hour long if donors decide to stay at the refreshment station to consume the snacks and juices provided or to socialize with their peers.
When asked what was the biggest challenge in organizing this event Baharmand said it was the logistics.
“Organizing this blood drive involved multiple stakeholders but what we found to be very encouraging was that these stakeholders were in support of having a blood drive [ . . . ] The biggest challenge was finding space that could appropriately house such an event – in fact, we spent the last 3 years working to make this event happen . . . so it is fair to say that we are so excited that it’s happening!” stated Baharmand.
When asked if another blood drive will be held in the future, Baharmand explained: “We really hope so – it partly depends on how successful this event will be, so we are doing our best to spread the word and have students register (or tell their peers to register).”
He further commented that if the club does decide on hosting additional blood drives in the future, they might start out on a yearly basis before they transition into a semesterly basis, but the club will decide on this matter within the next few months.
Since its inception in fall 2016, SFU Blood, Organ, and Stem Cell Club has organized various stem cell drives at the SFU Burnaby campus. During the stem cell drives, students’ cheeks get swabbed and are then sent to a lab to be processed. Once the cotton swabs arrive at the lab, they are analyzed for human leukocyte antigens (HLA) tissue markers, which are components of the human white blood cells, according to DKMS, a non-profit organization that aims to eradicate blood cancer and blood-related diseases. The donors’ information are then registered into a database and when a patient who is in need of a stem cell, they will be cross-matched with the donor that has the most similar HLA to them, according to DKMS’s website.
Baharmand further mentioned that the club was originally named “SFU Blood for Life” but they decided to change the name to SFU Blood, Organ, and Stem Cell in January 2019 because it better communicated their mandate. The club initially started off with a group of seven passionate students, but now it has grown into a 16-person executive team with more than 20 volunteers who dedicate their time and creativity towards the cause, shared Baharmand.
“At SFU Blood, Organ, and Stem Cell Club we know that not everyone is eligible or interested in being a donor. That is why we provide alternative ways of getting involved in the cause. In other words, you do not have to be a donor* to join, volunteer, or be on the executive team – all you need is a passion for helping patients and individuals who rely on this help,” he concluded.
*According to Baharmand the club’s requirements for being a blood donor are similar to the Canadian Blood Services.