Like many students from the Long School of Medicine, third-year medical student Dawn Janysek planned on saving lives this spring during a surgical rotation. Instead, her life-saving contribution is happening through blood donation in the middle of a historic pandemic.

“I worked in the trauma bay in surgery,” said Janysek. “I’ve seen how important it is to have blood on hand.”

The city has paused public gatherings and organizations around the county have postponed their blood drives, yet the need for blood remains constant.

“The care of many patients is dependent on the use of blood,” explained Joshua T. Hanson, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for student affairs and associate professor in the Division of General and Hospital Medicine in the Long School of Medicine. Aside from trauma cases, cancer patients and people undergoing surgery may also need blood and during this time of social distancing, there is concern of a temporary shortage.

“During this necessary period of decreased social mobility, the supply of fresh blood products decreases because donors can’t make it their typical locations,” he said.

In response, UT Health San Antonio quickly organized donation locations on campus and gathered volunteers so that faculty, staff and students could donate.

Just days after the call for blood donations was issued, nearly all donation slots—offered five days over the span of three weeks—were booked, for a total of 172 donations.

“I think it’s important for people at UT Health San Antonio to have an opportunity to contribute to the effort,” Dr. Hanson said. All social distancing guidelines were followed during the donations: face masks were required by all, volunteers and participants were screened for high temperature and cough, and a six-foot distance was maintained.

Janysek, visibly smiling under her face mask, said she shares the all-too-familiar scenario that many are facing during this time of social distancing:

“I have the time,” she said. “Anything I can do to help.”