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OU alum saves a life through bone marrow donation advocacy

Wednesday, September 3, 2014
OU alum saves a life through bone marrow donation advocacy

Jonathan Gusilatar, a 2012 grad of the biomedical diagnostic and therapeutic sciences program, helps save an 11-year-old girl's life through a chance encounter at a volunteer event during his time at Oakland University. 
by Kelli M. Titus

In 2013, a simple swab changed the lives of one Oakland University alumnus, his fellow intern and an 11-year-old girl in need of a bone marrow transplant.

Jonathan Gusilatar graduated from OU in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical diagnostic and therapeutic sciences (BDTS) with a specialization in medical laboratory science.

“OU not only provided me with the best education, but also the greatest life experiences,” Gusilatar said. “The BDTS program puts people in a profession that saves lives.”

Oakland’s BDTS program offers professional opportunities for students in a variety of healthcare fields. Kristin Landis-Piwowar, assistant professor in OU’s School of Health Sciences, says the program is unique in that it allows students to either find a professional career with the bachelor’s degree program, or can be a springboard for students interested in medical and other professional schools.

“Jonathan is a shining star as an advocate for the Medical Laboratory Science profession,” Landis-Piwowar said. “The field of Medical Laboratory Science is not commonly known and as an OU grad, he's not only bringing awareness to the profession, but also to the University, and most importantly, his actions save lives.”

Gusilatar organized a Be The Match® bone marrow drive during his senior year at OU, setting the foundation for another life-saving event that would come a year later.

“As the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science Student Forum Representative the next year, I decided to organize another drive given the positive experience I had at Oakland,” Gusilatar said. “This bone marrow drive is my most memorable one so far.”

While organizing the 2013 bone marrow drive at the ASCLS-MI Annual Meeting and Exhibits in East Lansing, Mich., Gusilatar recruited fellow intern Nick Serocki to “man the booth during the drive.”

“I later found out that Nick wasn’t on the registry so I gave him the facts and urged him to sign up,” Gusilatar said. “I remember saying to him that I have been on the registry for more than five years and I haven’t gotten a single phone call.”

Only a few months later, Serocki received a call from the National Marrow Donor Program® that he was a possible match to an 11-year-old girl who needed a transplant. After multiple tests, surveys and blood samples, Serocki was found to be a perfect match and would undergo the bone marrow transplant.

Serocki was hooked up to an apheresis machine, which draws blood from his arm, collects blood-forming cells and returns the remaining blood back to the donor. This bone marrow transplant process lasted five hours, leaving him exhausted, yet fulfilled that he was able to potentially save the 11-year-old girl.

Gusilatar was equally ecstatic about the donation, as facilitator of the event that benefited someone’s life.

“There are few moments that we are able to change someone else’s life, to become a hero to somebody,” Gusilatar said. “These moments are mostly unexpected. One simple action can make a huge difference in another person’s being."

“A simple swab of the inside of your cheek can save a life.”