In almost 50 years, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center has become much more than the community blood bank its founders envisioned in 1973.
And that evolution will accelerate in the next few years, Adrienne Mendoza, Vice President of Blood Operations, told the board of directors of The Blood & Tissue Center Foundation at its quarterly meeting on Monday.
‘Care and cure’
Mendoza, who will become Chief Operating Officer of STBTC when current COO Elizabeth Waltman retires in April 2022, said the organization’s focus is “care and cure” – caring for patients needing transfusions by ensuring an adequate blood supply, and helping develop new therapies that could reduce the amount of blood needed overall.
“Going forward, we need to think about what we do recruit donors to support both the ‘cure’ side and the ‘care’ side,” she said.
The center is taking several different approaches to donor recruitment, Mendoza said, with a goal of expanding the size of the donor base and its demographics.
“During the pandemic, with many school blood drives shut down, we had to rely more on our older donors, and that’s just not sustainable,” she said, noting that growing numbers of older donors will eventually not be able to donate anymore due to health conditions.
“So what we’ll be concentrating on is younger donors, helping individual donors understand the role they’re playing in both caring and curing, and making it a sustainable and exciting endeavor to have someone come out and donate.”
New donor rooms
STBTC also is expanding its physical presence in the 48-county area it serves. A new donor center is scheduled to open in Boerne in the fourth quarter of this year, with another in Bulverde in the first quarter of 2022.
The two donor rooms, when fully operational, will have the ability to collect 8,000 blood donations a year, Mendoza said. The communities were selected because of their rapid population growth and the potential for new donors.
In addition, the center is exploring options for “popup” collection sites in the Rio Grande Valley, another part of the state experiencing population growth.
“We serve about 10 hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley right now, and there are opportunities to serve more,” she said.
Foundation board members can play an important role in helping to build relationships in communities where additional donor outreach is planned, according to Executive Director Mary Uhlig.
In both the Rio Grande Valley and in the fast-growing areas north of San Antonio where new donor centers are planned, board members are invited to help identify contacts who can help introduce the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center to the community by emailing Mary Uhlig or Patrick Rouse.
“The success of outreach efforts in these communities will be critical to meeting the growing need for blood and supporting new therapies,” Uhlig noted.