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Felker Infuses Life Lift
Michigan Community Blood Centers supplies 23
“On an ‘irregular regular’ basis, we’ve been shipping blood to the military,” said Felker, MCBC president & CEO, who served four years in the National Guard but never left the state.
“They know my person by her first name, and they call her up and say … ‘Have you got something you can ship off today?’ And we always try very hard to have whatever they need. That’s real important to us, too. It goes to
Felker oversees 425 staff members in four locations:
All the work is performed according to federal regulations, Felker said, and the organization is regulated as a pharmaceutical manufacturer. It is licensed by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and the Michigan Department of Community Health.
Felker has changed hats several times over the years. Raised in the
Then Felker decided he’d had enough of numbers and formulas and sitting at a desk.
“I found out what I really wanted to do was work with people,” he said. “Sitting at a board, drawing all day in a corner was not exactly what I wanted to do. GM is like a small city and has so many things that you can do. So I just transferred around till I found something I really liked.”
That’s when he switched to human resources.
“The best job I had over there was working in benefits, and that was helping people get their bills paid and explaining what their benefits are and signing retirement papers and those things,” Felker said.
As part of that job, Felker organized blood drives. He joined the local boards of the American Red Cross and Grand Valley Blood program, which eventually encompassed three other blood programs in the Michigan Community Blood Centers. When MCBC found itself in need of a new leader in 1985, it asked Felker to take the job for a year. He agreed, and GM provided a “community service” leave of absence.
Needless to say, his GM leave has expired.
“It’s a feel good job,” Felker said. “You go home feeling very satisfied.”
The programs and services have expanded over the years. When Felker first started, the organization collected 47,000 useable pints of blood annually, and today, that number is 104,000 in four
Like any other business, MCBC must respond to the needs of its customers: hospitals. “Almost all the services that we have, have been requested by the hospitals. And because they wanted them, we developed them,” Felker said. Besides whole blood, that includes:
*Collecting blood components while returning the rest to the donor.
*Removal of certain blood components as treatment for certain diseases.
*Mobile blood donation center (bus).
*Stem Cell/Cord Blood Bank, which had collected and stored the blood from more than 1,800 umbilical cords by the end of the 2006 fiscal year.
*DNA/HLA laboratories, which allow tissue-typing at the genetic code level within three to four days, instead of waiting five to six weeks from more distant laboratories.
*Red cell reference laboratory, used for the most complex or unusual cases.
*Infectious disease testing laboratory, through which all MCBC donations are processed.
*Advanced tissue typing in conjunction with the National Marrow Donor Program.
“When people look at us they think, yeah, we give you our blood, they take it to the back door, and they send it to the hospitals. It isn’t quite how it happens. There’s a lot more to it than that,” Felker said. “When I came in 1985, we used to take orders in the morning and deliver blood in the afternoon. Now it takes 24 hours just to test the blood.”
Marketing plays a huge role in recruiting enough donors to keep up supplies, Felker said. MCBMC needs an average 144 donors per day in
According to an IRS document covering the tax year ending
Earlier this year, Felker was named chairman of the
“I believe in what they’re doing,” Felker said. “I became its chair in May. I think the
In the meantime, you’re not likely to see Felker join other septuagenarians in retirement.
“I like it too much,” he said of his job. “As long as I can be an asset to the organization, I think I’ll probably be around. It’s something that grabs you … I just really like the whole deal.
“I heard one place that the average transfusion is (distributed to) 3.3 (people). If we’re doing over 100,000 units, that’s 33,000 transfusions, and — I don’t know how many people are in Grandville or