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Health Educ (Muncie). 2014 Spring;46(1):14-19.

Getting to the Heart of Being the Match: A Qualitative Analysis of Bone Marrow Donor Recruitment and Retention Among College Students.

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Health Education, Texas A&M University, Department of Health and Kinesiology, 4243 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-4243, .
University of Minnesota Medical School, Program in Health Disparities Research, Department of Family Medicine & Community Health, 717 Delaware St SE, Suite 166, Minneapolis, MN 55414, .
Texas A&M University, Department of Health and Kinesiology, 4243 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-4243, .
University of Cincinnati, School of Human Services, PO Box 210068, Cincinnati, OH 45221, .



For those with certain blood or bone cancers, bone marrow donation can mean the difference between life and death. The National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP) operates the largest bone marrow registry of potential donors; however, at times when potential matches are identified, many donors opt not to donate. The purpose of this study was to describe perspectives from college-aged students on recruitment to a bone marrow donation registry and retention to the registry/follow-through with the donation process.


Researchers employed a one-time qualitative study using 7 focus groups comprised of 10 - 11 college students each (n = 76).


Results yielded three overarching themes: donor recruitment, donor retention, and factors contributing to the overall donation process. More specifically, this study identified key factors affecting bone marrow donation in an essential population: facilitators, barriers, knowledge, and 'goodness'. Additionally, marketing and communication were found to be major determinants of potential donors staying with the NMDP.


Better explanations and awareness/promotion campaigns are necessary for recruiting potential donors to the NMDP and to increase the likelihood that the donor will follow through with the donation should a potential match be identified. Recommendations from this study may improve recruitment and retention rates among the NMDP campaigns targeting college students.


National Marrow Donor Program; bone marrow donation; college students; registry; underutilization


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