Woman Veteran Award Winner Dr. Indria Gillespie
From person who nominated her:
She is an African American, US Army Veteran (Military Police) and she is a two-time bone marrow donor. She has donated to two non-related recipients that were diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. After receiving the news of the passing of her first donor just three weeks post transplantation, she began to conduct research of her own.
She discovered that bone matches are determined by the recipient’s and donor’s Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) genetic marker, which is hereditary. This is why over 90% of bone marrow matches occur within the same ethnicity. In addition, she has discovered Blacks are under-represented on the bone marrow registry. Blacks represent over 13% of the U.S. population; however, Blacks represent only 7% of the registrant population on the registry. All of which, contributes to Blacks having the lowest match rate of 23%, which is the lowest match rate than any ethnicity in the world. This creates a huge health disparity in the Black community. On the other hand, Whites match rate is 77%. Ironically, this is the same percentage (77%) of Blacks that die waiting for a match.
Not long after the passing of her first donor, she began to work tirelessly volunteering her spare time to give presentations at churches, community events, health and business conferences, as well as bone marrow drives. She wrote opt-ed pieces for publications geared towards the Black community.
She received the call again one evening in 2015 from the bone marrow registry informing her that she was a match for a second time. This time to a 43-year-old African American female with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. At which time, she was in the first semester of her doctoral program. Her second donation changed the trajectory of her doctoral dissertation research, as well as her career. She changed her dissertation to Increasing the Representation and Utilization of Blacks on the Bone Marrow Registry: A Needs Assessment. She also founded Angels In Disguise, a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) organization, whose mission is to conduct non-clinical research and create awareness about the bone marrow registry in the Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities.
Her mission is to facilitate her Bone Marrow Educational Symposium at HBCUs and designated Hispanic and Native American serving institutions throughout the United States. Her goal is to eliminate the under-representation of Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans on the bone marrow registry.