Medical Students’ Knowledge, Familiarity, and Attitudes towards Hematopoietic Stem Cell Donation: Stem Cell Donation Behaviors

Praveena Narayanan, Alexandra Wolanskyj, Shawna L. Ehlers, Mark R. Litzow, Mrinal S. Patnaik, William J. Hogan, Shahrukh K. Hashmi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is a potentially curative treatment for patients with blood disorders and genetic diseases. Approximately 70% of the HSCTs currently performed in the United States use stems cells from an unrelated donor who donated voluntarily. Medical students (MS) are a young, diverse, influential population whose willingness to engage in altruistic acts, such as donating stem cells, may be correlated with knowledge on the topic. A literature gap exists in MS perspectives towards HSCT and the bone marrow registry (BMR) and prior studies suggest that misconceptions about donation deter MS from participation on the BMR, which may decrease opportunities to educate other potential donors. We performed a cross-sectional survey among the 4-year cohort of MS at Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minnesota. The questionnaire evaluated multiple areas including whether MS were current members of the BMR and/or prior blood donors, MS current knowledge on donor eligibility (DE) and the donation process (DP), MS familiarity with HSCT and the DP, and MS attitudes towards joining the BMR and towards donating stem cells. The responses were analyzed and assessed alongside a self-reported, standardized scale measuring students’ altruistic behaviors. There were 99 out of 247 potential respondents (40%), with 45% (n = 44) of MS in preclinical years 1 or 2, 37% (n = 37) in clinical years 3 or 4, and 18% (n = 18) in research or alternative portions of their training, of which 43% (n = 41) in total were current BMR members. BMR status correlated positively with prior blood donation (P = .015) and female sex (P = .014). Respondents had a 57.7% and 63.7% average correct response rate regarding knowledge of DE and DP, respectively, with knowledge of DE not surprisingly higher in BMR members (P < .0001). The majority of MS surveyed, 68% (n = 65), had learned about HSCT during medical school. BMR status correlated with the following attitudes towards donating stem cells: lower concern with all evaluated aspects of HSCT—time, cost, pain, and side effects (for all subsections, P < .05) but not with the altruism score (P = .32). The mean altruism score for respondents was 59.9 ± 11.3 (of a possible 100 points) with no significant difference in age, race, sex, level of training, or participation in the BMR. Altruism scores did not directly correlate with lower concern with aspects of time, cost, and pain of HSCT but did with long-term side effects (P = .021). This latter correlation was regardless of BMR status. Among MS, positive predictors for participation in the BMR included prior blood donation and female sex. BMR status did not ensure knowledge of all aspects of donating stem cells, but it correlated with less concern regarding the DP and was unrelated to altruism score. Improving knowledge gaps regarding the BMR and HSCT for the next generation of physicians and health care providers through expanded medical education curriculum may be beneficial to for the recruitment and retention of donor populations to the BMR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1710-1716
Number of pages7
JournalBiology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Altruism
  • Bone marrow transplantation
  • Donor
  • Registry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Transplantation


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