This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

UB students launch organ donation awareness campaign

Published: March 31, 2005

UB students in an advanced public relations class are launching a public health campaign on campus in April—National Donate Life Month—to raise awareness of the critical need for more organ donors in the United States.


The campaign, with the New York Alliance for Donation (NYAD) serving as the public relations client, is part of a $936,495 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to UB, the University at Albany and NYAD. The purpose of the grant is to study the effectiveness of student-designed PR campaigns—through the PR course at UB and a similar course at Albany—to increase organ-donation registry efforts among college students. Thomas H. Feeley, UB associate professor in the Department of Communication, School of Informatics, is principal investigator; Deborah A. Silverman, visiting assistant professor of communication, is the classroom instructor.

"There is an urgent need for more organ and tissue donors," Silverman says. "Currently, there are more than 87,000 Americans on the list for a transplant, and each day, 17 people die while waiting."

To learn more about the problem, the students heard from several guest speakers and toured Upstate New York Transplant Services of Buffalo, Western New York's organ-procurement agency. They then developed a campaign designed to educate students, faculty and staff about organ donation and to encourage them to sign donor-registry cards for the New York State Organ and Tissue Donor Registry. The campaign theme is "Open the Door to Life."

"The final step after signing a donor card is to have a conversation with your family members, since they will be the ones to carry out your wishes," Silverman says. "That is extremely important."

Activities planned as part of the PR campaign will include a fashion show at noon on April 11 in the Student Union featuring DJ Anthony of KISS 98.5 as emcee. Students will model fashions from several stores, including TT New York, Gap, Tuxedo Junction and Damsel In A Dress. There will be free pizza, entertainment from student musicians and breakdancers, and an appearance by UB's mascot, Victor E. Bull.

Class members also will staff information tables on the North and South campuses featuring brochures and donor-registry cards. The schedule:

  • April 4 and April 6, noon to 2 p.m. North Campus: second floor, Natural Sciences Complex; first floor, Capen Hall; Law Library, second floor near Baldy Hall walkway; Center for the Arts Atrium; Alumni Arena near the triple gym; Alumni Arena near the fitness room. South Campus: first floor, Harriman Hall.

  • April 11, April 12 and April 18, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. North Campus: Student Union lobby.

  • April 12 and April 13, 4:30-7 p.m. North Campus: Governors, Richmond and Red Jacket dining halls. South Campus: Goodyear dining hall.

In addition, one team of students produced a nine-minute video about organ donation and will make presentations throughout the month to large communication and health classes, as well as to student clubs, encouraging students to sign donor cards and talk to their families about their decision.

Another team of students created new content for the class Web site, working with a graduate student from Miguel Ruiz's Information Architecture class. The Web site can be accessed, starting today, at

Two other teams are handling media relations with print and broadcast media on campus and in the Buffalo area, sending news releases and making arrangements for appearances on local TV programs, while another team is in charge of advertising, signs and promotional items.

Flyers and organ-donor cards will be distributed with paychecks to 650 Campus Dining and Shops employees, and Campus Café on North Campus has agreed to distribute green napkins with the "Open the Door to Life" organ donation message to its customers.

"After our class learned about the urgent need for organ donors, with people dying every day, I realized that there is so much good that our campaign can do," said Don Paddock, a student in the class. "We're gaining valuable experience in planning and executing a public relations campaign, while helping to solve a serious health problem in the United States. It's a win-win situation for everyone."