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Saving Lives through Competitive Blood Donation
December 01, 2022

Heather Walter, St. Luke’s Medical Lab Technician, handles a blood bag.

Nearly 65 residents spread across seven residency programs within the St. Luke’s University Health Network participated in a friendly competition to see which division could generate the most blood donations for the Miller-Keystone Blood Center.

This year’s competition netted 107 units of blood – up from 76 during the last drive, according to Tony Allsbrook, a third-year general surgery resident with an interest in trauma surgery. “Those 107 units of blood can save 321 patients in our area,” said Allsbrook, who helped revitalize this competition that was suspended at the start of Covid.

In his time at St. Luke’s, Allsbrook said he has come to deeply appreciate the impact donated blood can have on patients, particularly when there are limited options. “When you have a trauma patient who is bleeding to death,” he said, “sometimes the only thing that can save his life is to continue to transfuse him.”

In those cases, “one patient might use maybe 80 units of blood, and that can severely deplete the hospital’s blood supply. We are one of the larger hospitals in the area, so imagine what that means for a smaller hospital, with a much more limited blood supply. It’s a very real concern.”

Dr. Brian Hoey, program director of General Surgery Residency for the St. Luke’s University Health Network, said that community blood reserves have been decimated in the last several years, primarily due to Covid-related issues.  “I am very proud of our surgery residents, for once again taking the lead on the Graduate Medical Education-sponsored blood drive,” he said. “It was an incredible success and will help to ensure that we have an adequate blood supply for our Lehigh Valley residents.”

The Miller-Keystone Blood Center, which was founded in the Lehigh Valley in 1971 and continues to supply blood to 29 hospitals in the region, has recently emphasized a greater need for blood. To help replenish the blood bank’s supply, Allsbrook encouraged the hundreds of residents across the St. Luke’s network to donate. The group with the most donations wins “a nice little trophy,” Allsbrook says, “and bragging rights, which is the biggest thing.”

This year, the general surgery residents once again bested their competitors, “just slightly edging out the emergency surgery residents,” Allsbrook said, noting that additional blood donations were collected from employees of St. Luke’s in support of the program.

Not surprisingly, he said, surgical residents are highly motivated “since we see the impact in our patients – trauma, of course, but also cancer patients, cardiac patients and others – maybe even someone with a GI bleed. As providers of that care, we are depleting that supply to treat patients, and it’s up to us to be on top of it.”

Allsbrook came to St. Luke’s from his home state of Virginia, where he earned his undergraduate degree from James Madison University and medical degree from Virginia Tech. “When I was considering residency programs and came here, I just fell in love with St. Luke’s and the whole area – the people and the programs – just everything. It was my number one choice and we’re really glad we ended up here.”