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Blood Drives: More than Meets the Eye

Emily Mueller, AB’16, has dressed as a blood drop, championed her cause on social media and throughout campus, and made education around FDA policy and Ally Donation a central part of her work as our Blood Drive Coordinator. Here she reflects on her experience with the institute before leaving for Northwestern University, where she will pursue a graduate degree as a physician assistant.

As I look back on my college experience, working as the Blood Drive Coordinator at the Gephardt Institute stands out as the most defining. Four years ago, I came to WashU with a vague idea of wanting to help people.  In retrospect, this abstract notion of “helping” is not enough. My supervisors and colleagues in the office have helped me to develop a sense of philanthropic duty into a focused mission to create real change.

Emily in one of her many appearances on campus as “the Blood Drop.”

If not for my involvement in Blood Drives, I would never have learned what kinds of questions I should be asking of individuals, communities, institutions, and society at large in order to impact change, let alone that I should be asking questions at all.  In the past two years, I have been inspired and empowered to challenge assumptions of others as well as my own.

Perhaps most importantly, my position has allowed me to reassess my own definition of success. What I would have seen as terrible failures four years ago have turned into some of my most important experiences and ultimately greatest successes. Often when people think of what makes a successful blood drive, they think of the total number of units collected. I cannot discount the lifesaving impact of each unit donated, but I can’t help but think that the community that we cultivate with blood drives is just as important. Inclusivity, compassion, and community in the realm of biomedicine can often be forgotten in the face of rapidly expanding biotechnology and ever increasing biomarkers.

As a future healthcare practitioner, it has been invaluable to gain the understanding that health and public health are more than just a numbers game. I am so grateful for each and every person I have interacted with through Gephardt for the community, advice, and encouragement that they have given me.  Although I don’t feel nearly prepared enough to enter the real world, I am comforted in knowing that the skills and experience that I have gained at the Gephardt Institute will be enough to help me thrive and grow through any challenge.

Two University-Wide Blood Drives will take place this summer, on June 29 and July 5-6. Learn more and sign up.