Black History Month Marks Importance of Diverse Blood Donors

February 1, 2010
News Release      
Southeastern Michigan Blood Services Region
Media Contact: Bridget Tuohey, 313-576-4184                                          February 2010
                       Martha Roemer Kurtz, 313-494-2745                      
Blood donors from diverse backgrounds can take their place in history by making and keeping an appointment to help save a life during Black History Month.
African-Americans have a distinguished history in shaping blood services programs within the American Red Cross. In the 1940s, medical researcher Dr. Charles Drew laid the groundwork for today’s modern blood donation program through his innovative work in blood banking. And the world-renowned Holland Research Laboratory in Rockville, Md., bears the name of educator and U.S. Ambassador Jerome Holland who streamlined the growth of Red Cross laboratories in the early 1980s.
“African-Americans have played a key role in modern blood banking,” said Diane Ward, CEO for the Southeastern Michigan Blood Services Region of the American Red Cross. “Black History Month is a great way to recognize that legacy, and to encourage donors of all ethnicities to give blood.”
African-Americans have the power to make a unique contribution to America’s blood supply since more than 50 percent of people with African descent have type O blood. About 20 percent of African-Americans also have type B blood, which is higher than other populations. Several rare blood types are also unique to the African-American community.
“We need donors of all ethnicities to help meet patient needs,” said Ward, adding that the most compatible blood for some seriously ill patients is most likely to come from someone with the same ethnic or genetic background. “Sometimes, it’s that single donation from a particular person that can make a difference in someone’s life.”