Earlier this week, I first learned about Amit Gupta and his story from a twitter post. A friend of Emily Olson, co-founder of foodzie.com, sent me a tweet asking for help getting a Virgin America ticket donated for his friend who needs to travel for a bone marrow transplant. Getting the place ticket was easy. One email to David Cush, the CEO of Virgin America and he graciously agreed to help out. Finding the perfect bone marrow match for Amit Gupta is the real challenge. Amit, a member of the San Francisco tech community, has leukemia. He is also South Asian, a population that is dramatically under-represented in existing bone marrow registries. At present, many of the registries don't have the resources to target populations that are difficult to reach.
Can Social Media Save Amit Gupta?
What I've seen unfold over the past several days is a passionate community, using a variety of digital communications to help Amit find the bone marrow match that he desperately and immediately needs. The community is rallying and hopes you'll join the registry, tweet and forward this article to your friends to help Amit, and others, find a match. Marketing guru and author Seth Godin posted a story on his blog; Michael Galpert joined in, both urging others take a cotton swab test by simply registering here: bit.ly/swabacheek. The test is painless, and in fact the technology developed for bone marrow transfers has dramatically improved in the last decade, making bone marrow transfers much easier -- if one is lucky enough to find a match (more information can be found at www.marrow.org). There is also a hashtag dialog on Twitter under the tag #iswabbedforamit.
In the meantime, the dialog about Amit bubbled up on another network - fueled by another email chain. A bunch of thought leaders, technology folks, digital influencers and venture capitalists are headed to Puerta Vallarta for an invite-only conference. Turns out the group of heavy hitters aren't just drinking margaritas. Digital guru Gary Vaynerchuk, who has over 900,000 Twitter followers, is hosting a social media session Friday with Andy Smith, the author of The Dragonfly Effect on 'socialchangeinabox.' The goal? To find a perfect match for Amit.
Meanwhile, a team at Stanford University is running a bone marrow event with cheek swabbing for Amit today and next week (@100KCheeks) and helping universities across the country run similar simple events through DoSomething.org. Cheek swab parties and events are bubbling up from Berkeley to Ohio. The group at Stanford is being lead by Professor Jennifer Aaker who is also co-author of the Dragonfly Effect, a book that looks at the positive impact of social media and who we can harness it for good. Jennifer and the Stanford student team are dedicated to getting 100,000 people signed up for the national bone marrow donor registry. Specifically, they are seeking to address the severe shortage of South Asian donors in the registry. And, in that process, hopefully save the life of at least one person.
So today is the day you can do some good with your social media tools. Help Amit and others find a match with a tweet, a blog post, an email forward. Go ahead, give G+, Facebook or your Tumblr a workout. And then get a cheek swab. Let's use our digital tools and do some good.