BUFFALO, N.Y. -- New York State's registry of residents willing
to donate their organs and tissue if they are fatally injured lags
behind those of states with less population and newer
Only 7 percent of New York residents have signed formally onto
the state's electronic registry. Building and populating the
registry became increasingly important this July, when New York
implemented a "consent" rather than an "intent" registry, which
makes a patient's wishes more binding.
Thomas Feeley, Ph.D., University at Buffalo associate professor
and a specialist in health communication, is co-principal
investigator on a project to "bulk up" the registry.
With the aid of a $320,000 two-year grant from the Health
Resources Services Administration's Division of Transplantation,
Feeley and co-investigator Michael Stefanone, Ph.D., UB assistant
professor of communication, will take advantage of popular Internet
social networking Web sites to spread the word about the importance
of organ donation and encourage users statewide to enroll. The New
York Alliance for Donation in Albany is considered the principal
"Current efforts targeting young adults rely on traditional
media, such as radio, television and print," says Feeley, "It's
clear college-aged adults consider these forms of media
The project's immediate target is the college-age population
– 18 to 24 year olds – with a goal of increasing
registrants in this group by 15 percent. A recent study found that
more than 80 percent of college students regularly sign on to
social networking Web sites MySpace and FaceBook.
An online presence encouraging organ donation will be created on
these two sites, plus YouTube, the three most popular Web sites for
Messages created by pro-donation UB undergraduates will be
posted and monitored, and the sites will be linked to the New York
State Donate Life registry.
Feeley and Stefanone will document the number of hits and
sign-ups, the overall increase in the registry and the increase in
18- to 24-year-old enrollees.
The researchers also plan to increase registration of
non-college-age adults by 5 percent, and to convince donors to make
their next-of-kin aware of their wishes.
Feeley has been conducting research on attitudes toward, and
interest in, organ donation among college-age students for several
years. One of his earlier studies, a meta-analysis of studies
targeting college students, published in the Journal of Applied
Social Psychology, indicated that college students are ideal
targets for communication about organ donation because they
generally are open to new knowledge and information, tend to be
altruistic and are more likely to serve as opinion leaders in the
Another study, published in the Journal of Health Communication,
showed that only 11 percent of a convenience sample of 502 college
students at two universities has signed donor cards, but 80 percent
were open to learning more about organ donation.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, a flagship institution in the State University
of New York system that is its largest and most comprehensive
campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic
interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and
professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at
Buffalo is a member of the Association of American