Dr Prateek Lala co-founded South Asians 4 Life in 2008 to help a friend find a stem cell donor. The group has since transformed itself from a patient-specific campaign to a community-oriented resource aimed at improving the odds for Canadians of South Asian descent in need of a stem cell transplant.
Dr Lala, a paediatric fellow at Sick Kids Hospital, says not only do South Asians have a far lower chance of finding a matching donor for a potentially lifesaving transplant than a Caucasian patient, South Asians also have the highest number of people waiting for a match among all minorities in Canada.
Increasing awareness helps sign up more donors, he says.
“It’s a very easy and fast process. Very little is being asked of you. A life could be changed, extended or saved and all it takes is 15 minutes to do a cheek swab. Of course, there are no long-term benefits to you – except that pretty cool feeling of knowing that you helped someone. We can and we will change the odds.”
Dr Lala, who was born in Toronto in 1973 and went to medical school here, does not recall any negative experience over the years.
“My parents came to Canada in 1967 and they never experienced any racism either, never felt excluded. My father landed a government job soon after coming here and worked there for 35 years. We’ve been fortunate.”