Bone marrow registry created by student

When Laura Seger heard there wasn’t a bone marrow registry at the University, she decided to take it upon herself to start one.

That was two years ago, and since then nearly 400 donors have registered through the Washington University Marrow Registry (WUMR), the organization created by Seger, who is working toward undergraduate and graduate degrees in biomedical engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science.

Laura Seger
Laura Seger

“Marrow registry drives are so important because over 3,000 patients, including 30 in the St. Louis area, search the national registry daily for matching donors and a chance for life,” Seger said. “Less than 5 million potential donors are currently on the registry, which is a very small fraction of our county’s population, so the odds of finding a life-saving match are poor.

“Every addition to the registry potentially saves a life.”

The third annual drive will be held at the University Feb. 3-5; the goal is to register 300 new potential donors. (For more information, see below.)

“We encourage students, faculty and staff to attend the drive,” Seger said. “It’s an easy way to possibly save someone’s life.”

Seger decided to get involved in June 2001, when she attended the engineering school’s Leader-Shape retreat, which encourages students to improve their communities by developing a leadership project.

Marrow drive Feb. 3-5

The third annual Washington University Marrow Registry drive will be Feb. 3-5 at the following times and locations:

• Feb. 3: 4-9 p.m., Friedman Lounge in Wohl Student Center;

• Feb. 4: 10 a.m.-4 p.m., The Gargoyle in Mallinckrodt Student Center; and

• Feb. 5: 11 a.m.-6 p.m., McDonnell Pediatric Research Building, Medical Campus.

The drive is open to all students, faculty, staff, and community members. Students will be tested for $5 and non-students for $25. Faculty and staff are especially encouraged to attend, either as donors or volunteers. The group will also accept personal donations to aid in discounting the testing fee.

The test is just a simple blood test. Those who attend the drive will only be asked to donate when a patient matches their marrow type.

At the retreat, she met engineering alumna Marla Esser, who shared her story of the Pearl family — Esser’s neighbors and close friends whose children, Alexandra and Matthew (now 8 and 6), were diagnosed with Fanconi anemia and required bone marrow transplants for survival.

When no matching donors were found on the national registry, Esser and many others started organizing marrow registry drives throughout the St. Louis area in order to add more potential donors to the registry.

In May 2001, Alexandra found a matching donor and received a successful transplant. Matt is still waiting for his perfect match.

“After listening to Marla’s story, I volunteered to host a marrow registry drive on the University campus as my Leader-Shape project,” Seger said. “Working closely with Marla and a core group of four students, we hosted our first drive in November of 2001 and added 184 potential donors to the national registry.”

After the success of that first drive, Seger founded the WUMR — a recognized student group devoted to marrow registration, awareness and education.

The group holds annual marrow registry drives on both the Hilltop and Medical campuses and has registered 396 potential donors. The drives are staffed by more than 50 student volunteers and provide a student discount price of $5, thanks to diligent fund-raising of Seger and others in WUMR.

A fund-raiser open to faculty and staff is the Houlihan’s “You Eat, You Earn” program, through which area Houlihan’s restaurants will donate 10 percent of each bill on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Jan. 15 to WUMR if the diner mentions the Washington University Marrow Registry.

“We encourage everyone to get involved,” Seger said.

For more information on WUMR and the steps involved in marrow registration, go online to

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