The Blood Bank Guy: A Conversation with Dr. Joe Chaffin Part II

You started the BBGuy website back in 1998 for the pathology residents at Walter Reed Army MC, but your website has grown and reached many people in multiple fields that are striving to learn more about transfusion medicine. When was the first time you realized that the BBGuy website had potential to reach and help far more people than the pathology residents you were teaching?

o   Sometime back in the early 2000’s, I was sitting at a table at the AABB Annual Meeting, reading something and grabbing a quick lunch. I could see two people in my peripheral vision that slowly walked by my table and then passed by again a minute later. They were looking in my direction, but I thought someone important must be at the next table, so I didn’t pay much attention. Finally, they stopped right beside me and one of them said, in a quiet voice, “Ummm…Blood Bank Guy?” I just about fell over! They were recent laboratory science school graduates, and they wanted to tell me that the material on my site had helped them in their classes. At that moment, I realized my audience had changed. From then on, my focus changed, too. I started writing, speaking, and creating with more than just physician trainees in mind. I realized that MLS/CLS and SBB students and graduates were listening and watching (more than 50% of my audience, it turns out!), and that realization shapes what I do with the site to this day.

What has been your favorite topic to talk and teach about?

o   Anyone who has ever spent time training with me knows this one: I love immunohematology! I find the blood groups incredibly fascinating, and I just can’t get enough of the details. I did a podcast interview recently with Sue Johnson from BloodCenter of Wisconsin, one of my favorite immunohematology teachers, discussing the direct antiglobulin test. I got completely immersed in the mechanics of the test itself, and had to forcefully remind myself to talk about the interpretations! I am enthralled by blood group biochemistry, the relationships between antibodies and antigens, and the complexity of the interactions in the human body. I really enjoy other topics, like transfusion reactions, but I will pretty much always swing back around to something to do with the blood groups, given a choice.

How do you think we in the blood bank field are doing educating fellow medical personnel about transfusion medicine? From your practice, do you think there is an area that needs more focus in the education process?

o   Softball question alert! This one is obvious: I started a blood banking educational web site 20 years ago because I believed that we were NOT doing a very good job of educating not only the medical trainees that would be overseeing blood banks, but also the clinical folks that care for patients who are getting transfusions. It’s my professional life’s work! It is abundantly clear to me that physicians in the U.S. are not receiving adequate training in basic Transfusion Medicine (heck, most of them are not getting any training at all!), and I’m not the only one to notice this. When I was in medical school, I “learned” transfusion from young surgical interns in actual conversations like this:

Joe: This guy we are taking to the OR tomorrow has an INR of 1.8.

Intern: Give him FFP.

Joe: How much?

Intern: Until his INR is normal.

Joe: How many units will that take?

Intern: I DON’T KNOW, stop bothering me! Just keep giving it until the INR’s normal, or I will murder you in the morning!

In my opinion, future physicians and nurses need formal training from blood banking experts in transfusion indications and transfusion reaction recognition and management, at minimum.

Additional questions to consider:

Who have been your mentors in this field?  Who has influenced your education and career the most? 

Are you in a position to mentor someone else in this field?

 Have you considered the SCABB Protégé Mentorship Program (PMP)?  Not only a great way to broaden your network but also learn new skills or leadership.  Please email Cheri Jennings at for additional information.

 Visit for more Blood Bank Guy educational content and information.

 Tomorrow: The Blood Bank Guy: A Conversation with Dr. Joe Chaffin Part III

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