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Written By

Andrew Cramb


College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

14 June 2021

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Harnessing the power of friendly rivalry

JCU Medical Students’ Association (JCUMSA) has harnessed the power of collegiate rivalry to increase the number of blood donors and lead the country’s universities in an annual competition.

World Blood Donor Day, held Monday 6 June, recognises all those who help save lives through blood donations. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate the efforts of our students and their incredible contribution to much-needed donations for the country’s blood supply.

Launched in 2008, the Vampire Cup is a national competition aimed at increasing the number of donations of life-saving blood products like whole blood and plasma. Initially held between medical colleges, the cup has since expanded to university-wide involvement.

JCUMSA wins Vampire Cup for fourth year running

Sixth-year medicine student Jack Bryant took the reins as JCUMSA Vampire Cup convenor in 2018. With the team making 40 donations and coming last in 2017, Jack embraced the challenge of turning things around and inspiring his fellow students.

“When I took over the role of JCUMSA convenor for the cup, it was just sort of one of my roles as the junior AMSA rep. I thought, if I'm gonna do it, I might as well try and do it properly,” Jack says.

While there has always been a strong altruistic reason to donate blood, Jack wanted to make sure it was also fun for participants. The group ran selfie competitions and other promotions which featured videos with the likes of the Toyota North Queensland Cowboys. Throughout the entire campaign, there was a fun and friendly rivalry among the JCU colleges.

“Competitions like the Vampire Cup are a great way to attack the challenge from a different angle. If you look at the sort of demographics of usual blood donors, it's usually people who are a bit older. I think the competitive nature of the cup has helped inspire younger people to start donating,” Jack says.

The 2017 wooden spooners stunned the competition in 2018, taking the cup with 425 donations in the eight-week timeframe. It was an almost tenfold increase in donations in the space of a year. Proving that the result was not a flash in the pan, Jack and fellow medical student Tanish John led the team to double their efforts again with 845 donations in 2019.

"I think the JCU community, not only the medical students, have responded with passion and authenticity to this competition and it shows the kind of impact you can make with this kind of attitude,” Jack says.

Bianca Johnson and Blair Shearwin have taken the reins as JCUMSA Vampire Cup convenor in 2020 and 2021 respectively. They’ve carried on the team's winning ways, making it four years running. This year, Jack took on the role of the National Convenor for the cup and was thrilled to see that over 3,500 donations were made across all universities during the contest.

“The proudest moment for me is seeing people going back to donate over and over again. Last year JCUMSA managed to reach 2,500 donations and we hold the record for the most donations in the cup in a single year.”

“I’ve been privileged and humbled with the responses and support we’ve gotten. It’s shown me that people really get behind you if you're passionate about a project." JCU Medicine Student Jack Bryant, JCUMSA Vampire Cup Convenor 2018

Inspired by the success of the cup, Jack has embarked on a research project, with the help of JCU and the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood, to determine the effect of competition on donor retention and recruitment.

“From what I’ve seen, there is a gap in the literature. A lot of past research has focused on donor behaviour and motivations, but there isn’t much on the group mentality of donating or the influence of competition.

“My research aims to dig deeper on what we have seen anecdotally. Something about this competition is making people not only sign up but also keep coming back. I hope the research will be able to direct Lifeblood in how they work with the community to increase donation levels,” Jack says.

Jack Bryant giving blood as part of the Vampire Cup Challenge
The rewards of giving blood
(Left) Jack giving a plasma donation (Right) a sweet incentive for giving blood

You’re helping in more ways than you may ever know

From his involvement in the Vampire Cup, Jack has two simple remarks to encourage people to sign up to donate blood:

Just take the first step!

“A lot of people say ‘I’d like to donate, but just never get around to it.’ What we found is the hardest thing is not convincing people that it’s a good thing to donate, it’s convincing people to go for the first time,” Jack says.

“A lot of people say ‘I’d like to donate, but just never get around to it.’ What we found over the past couple of years is the hardest thing is not convincing people that it’s a good thing to donate, it’s convincing people to go for the first time,” Jack says.

“The evidence shows that if you can get someone to donate four times they’ll be a donor for life. I think that's why the competition is so effective; it runs for eight weeks so you can get four donations in there,” Jack says.

“I’ve fallen in love with the whole atmosphere and cause of blood donation. The staff at Lifeblood are all fantastic and it's a great service. I think I'm personally up to 76 donations now.”

You’re helping in more ways than you may ever know

“It’s a common misconception that blood products are only used for severe trauma scenarios, like where someone has been in a car crash and you need to replace lost blood. But, especially with plasma, there's a whole host of different applications. As a med student in hospital wards, I can see all the different places these products are required. From chemo treatments to sick babies, and vaccines and autoimmune conditions.

“You may not see it, but when you donate you’re making a massive improvement to the quality of life for patients who rely on these blood products.”

You can find out more about making a life-saving blood donation, or schedule an appointment today, at:

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