Natasha Collins '05 has spent much of her life giving to others. Now, she is hoping someone will give to her.
A first-year student at Yale School of Medicine and a native of Syracuse, N.Y., Collins is battling acute myelogenous leukemia, and she desperately needs a bone marrow transplant. With no genetic match currently available to her, her family and friends are using social networking and a vast web of contacts to change that.
Collins, 26, is of mixed race -- half white, half black -- making her bone marrow particularly difficult to match. On an international registry of bone marrow donors, only a tiny percentage shares her racial background; similar racial profiles are much more likely to provide genetic matches.
This is Collins' second bout with leukemia. She was first diagnosed in 2006, and after undergoing chemotherapy and a cord-blood transplant, she was declared cancer free.
But in February, the cancer came back, forcing Collins to scale back her medical studies. She is undergoing chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
"I can't go to classes because the chemo makes your immune system weakened, and you can't be around lots of people," Collins said.
Collins' particular challenges have mobilized many of her closest friends and family members to spread the word about her need for a transplant, including Regina Myers '08, who is also a medical student at Yale.
"Natasha has an extremely bright future as a doctor and the potential to make amazing contributions to our community -- but she needs a match to save her life," Myers said.
Collins, who majored in biology and society at Cornell, is hoping that Cornell's far-flung network will help her find a match.
While at Cornell, Collins worked at an after-school program at Beverly J. Martin Elementary School for three years. She also spent a summer as a Cornell Urban Scholar, studying public health policy. Just after graduation, Collins spent a semester at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar as a teaching assistant for organic chemistry.
Among her most cherished Cornell memories: the "perennial sleepover" that was her freshman year in Balch Hall; swimming in the gorges on the first hot day in Ithaca; and trying to walk up Buffalo Street one snowy afternoon, "slipping backwards 5 feet for every 2 feet of progress."
"These are just some of the memories that make me smile looking back at my undergraduate years," Collins said.
To register as a bone marrow donor, visit http://www.dkmsamericas.org/category/marrow-donors/become-donor.
Watch the YouTube video about Collins: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sepruKz_XNs.
Visit or join the Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=65568844747&ref=nf.
Questions about Collins can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.