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AMA president donates for first time as blood donor rules eased for gay and bisexual men

"It feels really good. This is a policy change that needed to happen a long time ago."
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Posted at 10:40 AM, Sep 15, 2023

WAUWATOSA — When Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld and his husband's oldest son Ethan was born at 29 weeks he needed a blood transfusion at a time when there was high demand for blood donations.

The old federal guidelines for donors prevented his parents from donating as Ethan spent nearly two months in the NICU.

"You're left out of something because of a policy that just doesn't make sense. It's hurtful. It's discriminatory," Dr. Ehrenfeld said.

Now the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows potential donors to be screened on an individual basis regardless of gender or sexual orientation. It took time to implement the changes, but Versiti Blood Center is now able to welcome this new group of donors.

"It opens it up to make it fair and equitable for those who want to donate to participate," Gitesh Dubal, Chief Marketing Officer for Versiti, said.

Now on the other side of it and side by side, Dr. Ehrenfeld and his husband are sending a message of hope.

"It feels really good. This is a policy change that needed to happen a long time ago," Dr. Ehrenfeld said.

"It's a wonderful thing to be able to do, and we unfortunately haven't had the opportunity to do in a long time," Judd Taback, Dr. Ehrenfeld's husband, said.

Dr. Ehrenfeld is the American Medical Association's first openly gay president and a professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin's department of anesthesiology.

This moment is not lost on him.

"I've dedicated my life to having an impact on others, but I've always been prevented from doing this very simple thing, donating my blood. So to be able to do this today is pretty momentous," Dr. Ehrenfeld said. "We can make a difference and I hope that it will inspire others to donate blood."