OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network

Lights, camera, swab. Three words that most accurately describe a recent OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network swab event in Vancouver. Spearheaded by award-winning documentary filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns, the event was part of Hapa-palooza, Vancouver’s first ever celebration of mixed ethnicity, and was caught on film as part of Jeff’s next film project.

Several years ago Jeff knew nothing about stem cells, their life-saving ability or the role ethnicity plays in matching a donor to a patient. A chance encounter with a story about mixed-race patients in need of a stem cell transplant prompted him to look deeper into the subject. Jeff is no stranger to discovering new aspects of mixed-race identity from his experience growing up half-Japanese and half-Caucasian in Kelowna, B.C. to his familiarity with mixed-race issues in his films.

Jeff contacted OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network and learned that a patient’s best chance of finding a match is within their own ethnic group. For patients of mixed ethnicity, this search is even more complex as their match would need to come from a donor with the same ethnic mix.

Although Canada’s donor database has more than 300,000 people willing to donate to anyone in need, 77 per cent of donorsare Caucasian and only 23 per cent are ethnically diverse. And while the mixed race population is growing, it is largely under-represented on the network, comprising only 0.7 per cent of all donors.

OneMatch is now working with Jeff to tell the stories of mixed race patients looking for a stem cell match through his feature length documentary Mixed Match. The film, currently in production, will take viewers on a journey from the patients’ diagnosis to transplant.

“I never realized how complex the search for a mixed-race patient is,” says Jeff. “As a filmmaker, I can raise awareness of the need and tell the very personal stories of everyone involved in finding a lifesaving stem cell match.”

OneMatch’s top priority is providing quality donors for all patients in need. This means that the OneMatch team is constantly working at increasing the diversity of the network. And because younger donors are associated with better patient outcomes post-transplant, raising awareness of the urgent need for young, ethnically diverse donors is key to better supporting patients on waiting lists.

OneMatch is thrilled to partner with Jeff to tell the stories of the mixed race community in their search for lifesaving stem cells. The Hapa-palooza swab event was a step forward for Mixed Match and OneMatch. New potential donors, including Jeff, registered on the network and Jeff and his film crew were able to interview OneMatch staff and capture the details of community outreach. More mixed race donors on Canada’s registry will offer hope and an increased chance of survival for mixed race patients everywhere.


Dr. Abhijit Guha

OneMatch Recipient Story
Dr. Abhijit Guha (YouTube video)