Research coordinator earns Diana Award for University Blood Initiative

Headshot of Aviva Klein

Aviva Klein

University of Chicago Medicine clinical research coordinator Aviva Klein, 25, was named to the prestigious University Blood Initiative (UBI).

The international award was established in memory of Princess Diana of Wales and is supported by her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. It recognizes exceptional young people who inspire and mobilize their generation to serve their communities and create long-lasting change on a global scale.

Klein — one of approximately 300 people worldwide to receive the award — was recognized for launching UBI, a grassroots organization that works to ensure a stable and equitable blood supply for people from all ethnicities and walks of life. At colleges across the U.S., UBI partners with independent community blood centers to recruit, train and educate college students about blood donation. Together, they set up blood drives and other activities.

“Even though the award’s in my name, I genuinely think this is UBI’s award,” Klein said, sharing credit with her nonprofit’s volunteer staff of more than 30 people, many affiliated with UChicago. “It validates that our message does carry. And we're penetrating that wall of non-awareness with young people."

Since its launch in 2019 at UChicago Medicine, UBI has amassed 24 chapters in 11 states and more than 600 members. A global expansion is expected in the next two years, and the group will start seeking funding from foundations and individuals.

The idea for UBI came from Klein’s experience volunteering at UChicago Medicine’s Blood Donation Center while a student at the University of Chicago. Even though she’d never given blood before, she became interested in the donation process while talking with the doctors she worked with and learning how few donors were young people and people of color. The average donor is a middle-aged white male.

During one volunteer shift, Klein witnessed a media interview at the blood center. She still tears up thinking about it: A UChicago Medicine patient was describing to the reporter how she nearly died from sickle cell anemia, but blood donations to the center saved her life.

“That interview was a turning point for me,” Klein said. “People deserve to feel safe and have what they need to live a fulfilling life. It’s not right to let people suffer for no reason when it’s preventable.”

Klein knew she wanted to enlist more young and ethnically diverse blood donors, but was intimidated to start an organization because she had no business background and was still new to the field. However, Klein said everyone at UChicago encouraged her to do it and offered their support as she learned everything she could about blood donation.

She eventually posted something on Facebook, inviting people to join the cause, and UBI was born.

“There wasn’t really a group dedicated to just promoting blood donation for college students, so inspiring a group of passionate and dedicated college students about the importance of blood donations was a wonderful idea,” said