Sorry – You Belong to The Wrong Racial Group!
Nobody should be “lucky” by virtue of their race or skin colour...

December is the best time to reflect on the last year - be it successes or challenges - and to make plans for the year ahead.


It’s been five years since I joined the BMDP and launched our plan to grow the number of volunteer bone marrow donors on the register and improve the odds for all Singaporeans who need a life-saving bone marrow transplant. We have had some great campaigns, incuding out iconic World Marrow Donor Day (WMDD) and our living statues (see image below), and most of all, we managed to establish strong partnerships with Education, Corporate and Community partners. Today we have 85,000 volunteer donors, where more than half of them (56%) were recruited during these five years with a whopping 47% below the age of 30. By the end of next year, when we complete our “Project 50k”, we will have more than 100,000 volunteer donors and the BMDP should be considered a national asset for all Singaporeans today and into the future.




That’s on the positive side but we still have mountains to climb and to illustrate this, I want to share a story. As many of you know, my BMDP journey started out as a “customer” when my eldest was diagnosed with leukaemia. I remember standing along the hospital corridor being given the news that “Daniel needs a transplant or he will die”. The next words were that I was “lucky because you are Caucasian”.  At that time, it was a glimmer in the darkness and it was only later that I understood it was simply because the donor registers in the UK, US and across Europe were larger and longer established than the BMDP. The math is simple - more donors = more chances! That's how 20 years later I'm still lucky and get to share Christmas with Daniel.




While I desperately held on to whatever “luck” might be out there, those few words, so simply said, have continued to resonate. I actually dislike any kind of prejudice – be it ageism, sexism and definitely nobody should be “lucky” by virtue of their race or skin colour.


While we have definitely made great strides, we just completed a study looking at the chances of finding a local donor for patients from each of our three main racial groups, Chinese, Indian and Malay. As shown in the picture below, the results were stark and illustrating the huge difference in the odds are the young members of our own BMDP family. Nearly half the Chinese “patients” were able to find a local donor but this dropped dramatically to just 4% of the Indian "patients" being so "lucky".




Local donors offer two main advantages; speed to transplant which can be the difference between life and death, and much lower cost. Fortunately, we are part of a global network with access to 30 million donors worldwide so Indian patients without a local donor, have a chance from India, the US and even Germany. Likewise, our Chinese patients can access China’s vast database plus Hong Kong and Taiwan and surprisingly, Malay donors are just as likely to find a match in the US or across the border in Thailand.



It’s nearly 2018. On behalf of the BMDP family we want to wish you all a healthy and happy year ahead – but more than that – make it the year that YOU sign up to save a life. We promise you, being a donor is just one day out of your entire lifetime but for someone else, it may be life itself.



PUBLISHED ON 20 December 2017
Registering to become a bone marrow donor means committing to be there when you get the call to give life. Each registrant provides hope for those waiting. A person could, however, be a match within a few months of registering, a year later or even seven years later.
How to register?