Columbia University urging more diverse blood donors amidst shortages

The American Red Cross recently announced that the number of people donating blood is the lowest it has been in the last 20 years. 

Now, in response, Columbia University is doing its part by raising awareness about the need for more diverse blood donors.

Columbia hosts at least 5 blood drives a year across its campuses, and while they are thankful for the 500-plus donors they get every campaign, there is a recognition that there is a need for more blood donors from black and brown communities.

According to Junior Benjamin, a Community Outreach Director, black people make up only 5% of blood donors, despite representing 13% of the country's population. And the reasons for that low number are steeped in history and discrimination.

"Because of the distrust that African-Americans have with the medical community, based on what had happened in the past with the Tuskeegee experiments, and people are wary of what the blood might be used for," Benjamin said. 

Blood donations are used to help patients in a variety of ways, from serious injuries, and cancer treatments, to treating conditions like sickle-cell disease, which primarily impacts the black community. 

Benjamin tries to personally bridge the trust gap in his community, coordinating blood donation processes and assuring potential donors of their integrity. 

"Being African-American myself, I'm able to be the representation," he states. "I’m asking you to donate blood because I trust the process and I’m coordinating the process on behalf of this institution."

To learn more about blood donation and drives held in the NYC area, you can visit: