A collaboration between the International Federation of Medical Students Association (Singapore) and the BMDP, SGMarrow was set up as a conduit to cultivate awareness and encourage bone marrow donation among the youth. Having just completed a successful donor drive at NUS Medical School earlier this month, we spoke to Fena Lee, one of the student leaders of this initiative
Q: How did the idea of SGMarrow come about?
A: We were in Turkey, as the Singapore delegation to the first International Federation of Medical Students Association conference. We attended one of the sharing sessions held by the public health team, and our eyes were opened to the plight of blood cancer patients and how these passionate medical students were doing their best to do something about it. We left inspired and eager to bring this level of university involvement back to Singapore.
Q: Is there a particular reason for choosing to work with the BMDP and the issue of bone marrow donation?
A: We saw two videos about a teenager and an absolutely adorable baby boy who needed a transplant, that twanged at our heartstrings. We were definitely emotionally sold! Thus we embarked on our research to find out about public perception of bone marrow donation in Singapore. We found that many harboured misconceptions and fears regarding the process and wanted to supplement BMDP’s efforts in public engagement and donor recruitment.
Q: What are the objectives of SGMarrow?
A: We seek to change the perception of bone marrow donation, which has a penchant for being misunderstood and to bridge this knowledge gap. By starting with university students, hopefully we can transform our generation and shape the nation into one where joining the register is part of growing up, and where ‘marrowcle’ is an actual word and all patients have a chance to start anew.
Q: How were the responses to SGMarrow activities so far?
A: Surprisingly good! We were apprehensive at first as preliminary feedback showed quite a number of our friends were hesitant due to the perceived pain, but many still stepped up during the actual event. In addition, the upper-years medical students posted to hospitals actually came back to the school compound to sign up! We even had friends from other faculties or serving in the Army who travelled all the way to sign up, including some who thought that the bone marrow aspiration would be done on the spot and were petrified at the thought but came by nonetheless. It has been really heartening, and we are so proud of our fellow Singaporeans.
With the positive response, SGMarrow plans to conduct similar outreaches in other universities and schools – reaching out to more people to be the marrowcle!