Save a Life, Be the Match


The University of Washington is proud to be a community partner with Be the Match, an education, research and advocacy organization managing the world’s largest marrow registry which helps connect people living with life-threatening blood diseases and cancers with life-saving donors.

This partnership bridges the University-wide Population Health and Race and Equity Initiatives. Our aim is to improve the quality of life and chance of survival for people with cancer and over 100 other diseases by educating about marrow donor disparities and the need for diverse registrants!

Be The Match is especially looking to register potential donors between the ages of 18 and 44.

In particular, they encourage people of color, particularly those with mixed-ancestries to consider becoming potential donors. Growing and diversifying the registry’s pool of potential donors increases peoples’ chances of finding a match—more on this later!

In 2018 and 2019, the UW will offer many opportunities to get involved in this partnership within the UW community, educating people about the life-saving process of marrow donation and how it helps save lives around the world. Below, you can check out what’s planned on campus, find ways to get involved, learn about past events, and learn why this partnership is so essential to UW’s commitment to equity in advancing population health.

Why UW

(Photo: Be the Match)

This is a bold, new partnership, but one with deep ties to the UW community. Research and treatment done in collaboration between the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the UW—including one of the first live marrow transplants—was integral to the establishment of the first marrow registry. As the first institution to be a community supporter of Be The Match, the University of Washington is excited to continue to serve in this life-saving mission.

More recently, in May 2016, UW professor of sociology Alexes Harris was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer and soon learned that a marrow or stem cell transplant would be her only hope of a cure. Two years later, after receiving a successful stem cell transplant using umbilical cord blood at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, she is living cancer free and recovering well, but the difficulty of finding a donor with a 100% matched made her realize the fight had only just begun.

Why ancestry matters

“We immediately started research to learn about how matches were found and I discovered that finding a non-related full match is difficult if you are a person of color, especially of mixed race origin,” says Harris, whose background is African American, Filipino, and Caucasian.

Having a 100% match is crucial in predicting positive outcomes post-transplant, but the percentage chance of finding a perfect match is skewed against minorities because ethnically diverse and mixed race donors are underrepresented in the registry. While Caucasians have a 75% chance of finding a full match in the existing marrow registry, African Americans only have a 19% likelihood of finding a match and comprise only 7% of the United States registry.

Within the United States registry, the likelihood for finding a full match is higher for people of Mexican (37%), Chinese (41%), South Asian (33%), Hispanic Caribbean (40%) and Native American (52%) ancestry than for African Americans, but still significantly lower than the likelihood for Caucasians.

The good news, Harris says, is that there are tangible ways to make a real difference—here and now.

“When it comes to marrow donation, and other blood products and organ donation, we can make a difference,” Harris says. “We can, for ourselves, save ourselves.”

Get Involved Today

To register, visit
or Text CURE16 to 61474

  • Hear other UW faculty, staff, and students—including Joe Grojean and Alexes Harris—speak about their experiences with rare blood cancers as patients and donors on April 17 at the HUB. Register here.

How do I sign up?

The UW’s goal is to add more than 2,500 people to the registry over the next year. Be one of the first. Joining is simple: go to and complete the registration online. A few days later, two cheek swabs will arrive by mail. Simply swab and return them in the postage paid envelope. Every person who registers increases the chances that ethnically diverse cancer patients eagerly awaiting news of a perfect match will receive one.

Only 1 in 430 on the registry will be a close enough match to donate to a specific patient. So if 2,500 register as part of this initiative, the UW community has the potential to save as many as five lives.

Be The Match Events at UW

Upcoming Events

Be The Match Donor Drive at the HUB!

On Wednesday, February 12, stop by the HUB anytime between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. to talk with a Be The Match representative, learn more, and potentially join the donor registry! Be The Match will be set-up with a table on the first floor of the HUB.

Past Events

Be The Match + UW Football!

Be The Match was on hand as the Huskies triumphed over Stanford the weekend of September 28. But the biggest winners were those who stopped by the Be The Match table and registered as potential marrow donors in order to make life-saving impact. The day before, Friday, Be The Match was at the HUB along with BloodworksNW to co-hosting a blood drive and recruitment event.

Get in the Game – Block Party on Red Square!

After Fitness Day, the Whole U, Be The Match, UW Football, and UW Men’s Basketball all packed up and headed to Red Square with a mission: spread the word about UW’s new partnership with Be The Match and talk to students, faculty, and staff about joining the registry. Students flooded the block party; eager to snap a photo with Dubs, meet coach Petersen and team players, and sign up to be a donor.

Although the official Be The Match and UW partnership is the first of its kind, Get in the Game isn’t a new concept. Created by Coach Tally of Villanova, Get in the Game is a nationwide series of events hosted by university football teams. The mission is always the same, spread the word about Be The Match and show students the impact they can make by joining the registry. Today, Get in the Game is supported by Coach Tally’s Foundation, the Andy Tally Bone Marrow Foundation.

From students and faculty playing corn hole together to attendees cooling off with Hubert’s lemonade and throwing on their new tees, the afternoon was exciting, inviting, and definitely one to remember. UW now has had over 200 students, faculty, and staff complete registration for Be The Match and request their swab kits in the mail. This is incredible, thank you to everyone who has become a donor. We’re just getting started! To learn more about the registration process, UW’s partnership, and who can join the registry, click here.

Without further ado, here are some of our favorite moments from the afternoon!

Students snap a photo with Coach Petersen after joining the registry and snagging their official Get in the Game t-shirt!

King 5 news dropped in to film the event for their local segment Take 5. Reporter Jordan Steele interviewed Coach Petersen, Lauren Updyke, assistant director to the Whole U, Brandyn Harvey, former NFL football player and Be The Match staff, and Dr. Alexes Harris, UW Sociology professor and cancer survivor. Check out Dr. Harris’ interview—what a natural!

Students passing on their way to class learn about Be The Match from two UW Football players.

Be The Match, UW Football, and Whole U volunteers were very busy spreading the word and walking new donors through the registration process the entire event. Good thing we had Kind Bars to refuel!

Dubs smiles for a job well done! Woof!

All in all, UW Fitness Day and our Get in the Game Block Party made for a fantastic day full of Husky spirit and community. We are excited to continue this partnership and could not have done it all without our amazing sponsors and partners. Thank you to Be The Match, UW Football, UW Athletics, and the Andy Tally Bone Marrow Foundation for your partnership and Hubert’s Lemonade, Kind Bars, Be The Match, and BECU for your sponsorship.

Partnership Kick-Off!

The Whole U is proud to help facilitate this partnership and got things started on Monday, November 5 by hosting a Be the Match Kickoff Event in the HUB South Ballroom attended by more than 450 staff, students, and faculty.

With a welcome and introduction from UW Provost Mark Richards, the evening featured a screening of Mixed Match, an acclaimed documentary that tells the stories of mixed race blood cancer patients who are forced to reflect on their multiracial identities and complex genetics as they struggle with a nearly impossible search to find marrow donors. The film was followed by a panel discussion on race in medicine and the process of marrow donation with experts from UW Medicine and the wider Seattle medical community weighing in.

Kick-Off Presenters and Panelists

Mark Richards — Presenter and UW Provost

Mark Richards joined the University of Washington as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs on July 1, 2018. A geophysicist, Richards also holds a faculty appointment in the College of the Environment’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences. As provost, he is the University’s chief academic and budget officer.

Richards came to the UW from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was professor of Earth and Planetary Science. While at Berkeley, he served as dean of mathematical and physical sciences, and simultaneously as executive dean of the College of Letters and Science. For his work on racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in the STEM fields, Richards received Berkeley’s two highest awards for promoting equity and inclusion.

Jeff Chiba Stearns — Mixed Match Director

Mixed Match is an inspirational, emotional, and evocative feature-length documentary by award-winning filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns that explores the need to find mixed ethnicity marrow and cord blood donors to donate to multiethnic patients suffering from life threatening blood diseases such as leukemia.

This live action and animated film is a dramatic journey focusing on the main characters’ struggles to survive against incredible odds. With the help of Mixed Marrow and first-hand stories from patients and their supporters, we hope to spread awareness about the need for multiethnic donors worldwide.

Alexes Harris — Survivor and UW Faculty

Dr. Alexes Harris is a professor of sociology at the University of Washington. Her research focuses on social stratification and inequality with an emphasis on juvenile and criminal justice processing and outcomes.  Dr. Harris’ research has been published in a number of academic journals, including The American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Law and Society Review and Symbolic Interaction.

Since 2004 she has taught undergraduate classes on social problems, race and ethnicity and juvenile justice, and senior research practicums on payday lending, monetary sanctions, and sports and higher education.  She also teaches graduate courses on qualitative research methods, juvenile justice and teaching sociology.

Shondell Reed — Donor, UW Athletics

Shondell Reed serves as Washington’s Senior Associate Athletic Director. Reed oversees UW’s compliance staff, as well as the department’s strength and conditioning, equipment, athletic training, sports psychology and nutrition staffs.  Reed also serves as sports administrator for seven varsity programs – men’s basketball and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis and men’s crew.

On campus, he is athletics’ liaison to the offices of admissions, student-life, the Attorney General, and the UW Police Department. Actively engaged in intercollegiate athletics governance and policymaking at the conference level and nationally, Reed serves on the Pac-12 Rules Working group and the NCAA Cross Country and Track & Field Committee.

Kemi M. Doll, MD, MCSR — Gynecologic Oncology, UW Medicine

Dr. Kemi Doll is a Gynecologic Oncologist in the UW Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She specializes in the surgical and medical treatment of uterine, ovarian, cervical and vulvar cancers.

Dr. Doll serves as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Services. Her research expertise is in population-level patterns of care, health-related quality of life, and racial disparities. Her current clinical research focuses on identifying modifiable factors that contribute to the Black-White mortality gap in endometrial cancer.

Sarah Noonberg MD, PhD — Chief Medical Officer at Nohla Therapeutics

Dr. Noonberg oversees clinical and medical strategy—including clinical development, biostatistics, pharmacovigilance, regulatory and medical affairs—for Nohla Therapeutics.

Nohla Therapeutics is a leading developer of off-the shelf cell therapies for patients with hematologic malignancies and other critical diseases.

Dr. Noonberg is a board-certified physician-scientist that brings over 14 years of leadership experience in clinical development, from initial drug discovery to global regulatory approvals and commercialization.

Dr. Colleen Delaney — Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Clinical Research Division, Pediatric Oncology

Dr. Colleen Delaney is Scientific Founder and the Chief Scientific Officer, Executive Vice President of Research and Development of Nohla Therapeutics, Inc., a cellular therapy company focused on development of universal, off-the-shelf cell therapies for patients with hematologic malignancies and other critical diseases.

She is a Member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Clinical Research Division, and an Professor at the University of Washington in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology.

In 2006, she established and became the Director of the Cord Blood Transplant Program at the Fred Hutch/Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, which has grown to be one of the leading programs in the country and the coordinating center of several multicenter clinical trials.

To register, visit
or Text CURE16 to 61474

All new Be the Match campus programming will be added to the Get Involved Today section at the top of this page. Follow along with us on social media and the Whole U website, and most importantly share with your family, friends, and colleagues!