April 15, 2014

On Heels of National Award, Pharmacy Students Aim to Raise Organ Donor Awareness

April 15, 2014 | This year, UAMS College of Pharmacy students hope again to win the national Organ Donation Challenge in a way that surpasses their past performance as well as their rivals.

April is national Organ Donation Awareness Month. In 2013, UAMS College of Pharmacy students for the first time won the challenge from the American Society of Transplantation by raising public awareness of the need for more organ donors.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 105,567 people in 2009 were on waiting lists for organ donations and 28,463 of those received them. That gap only has widened every year since. On average, 18 people die every day while waiting for a donated organ.

“You can see the supply is so much smaller than the demand, which is why we’re trying to encourage people to become organ donors,” said Seth Heldenbrand, Pharm. D., associate professor in the College of Pharmacy. “We are actually doing better in Arkansas than our surrounding states, with more than 50 percent of Arkansans being registered organ donors.”

Heldenbrand is advising the college’s students who have volunteered for the awareness effort.

The students in 2013 won the national contest of pharmacy students through presentations to high school and college students that included testimonials from the recipients of organ donations, appearances on area television and radio stations, T-shirt sales that raised $1,000 for the cause, coordination of a Wear Blue/Green Day for organ donation awareness, and participation in a wellness campaign at the UAMS 12th Street Health and Wellness Center.

Pharmacy students this month are doing all that again and more, including working with UAMS College of Medicine and College of Nursing students to raise awareness.

“Although the award is for pharmacy students, we wanted to be sure and include anyone who wants to get involved, especially students from other UAMS colleges. We want to be intercollegiate,” said Julianna Marcus, a third-year pharmacy student involved in the effort. “This year, we also plan to give any money raised to provide help to a donor recipient family.”

Additionally, they have gotten public service announcements onto the screens of some central Arkansas movie theatres, Donate Life graphics and links to a national registry for donors on the websites of Cornerstone Pharmacy and a health app development company, and stories from donor recipients and their families on a Facebook page.

Heldenbrand said he and the student volunteers expect to know by late May whether they’ve been successful in winning the challenge award for a second time.

For more information or to register as a donor, go to: www.donatelifearkansas.org