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Meet Nicole Acedo: SDBB Blood Donor Experience Manager

Nicole Acedo is incredibly passionate about San Diego Blood Bank donors and our mission to save lives together. Her work as our new blood donor experience manager involves many departments at SDBB, but she has one goal: Make certain that our donors have an exceptional experience when they choose to save lives with San Diego Blood Bank. It's our pleasure to introduce this dynamo of dedication, passion and diverse experience. Read on to learn more about why blood donation—and caring for others—is so important to Nicole.

Your position, donor experience manager, is new here at San Diego Blood Bank. Can you describe how the position was created and why it interested you?

This position was created late last year. Our CEO and Senior Leadership Team care deeply about our donors. The San Diego Blood Bank has been around for almost 70 years and has always aimed to provide a positive experience for our donors and to show appreciation for their contribution to our mission. A decision was made to focus on not just providing a good experience but on providing an exceptional experience. Everyone who takes time to come to one of our centers or blood drives should leave feeling like the VIP that they are.

I was working in our Quality Assurance and Compliance Department as a policy and document control specialist and my background is in counseling, staff development and working with organizations to improve services for clients. When I saw the job posting I felt like I was reading my dream job. I remember thinking, “How awesome would it be to spend my days working to create an amazing experience for donors so they choose to come back as much as they are able!”

How did your passion for blood donation and collection develop—why is the mission of SDBB, and caring for our donors, so important to you?

When I was growing up in Canada the phone would ring, and I’d hear one side of the conversation. My Dad would say, “Of course,” “I understand,” “Absolutely,” “I’ll be there.” After he hung up, he’d say, “Someone needs my blood. I’ve made an appointment to donate.” He never said “no” or “I’m too busy” or “let me check my schedule.” He just went.

My Dad was never sick a day in his life, but in 2009, at age 66, he had flu-like symptoms and a couple cuts got infected. He was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). 

He received countless blood and platelet transfusions. As the bags were hooked up to his IV, we had no idea what went into getting them there, but we were so grateful when they arrived. For many years Dad’s blood donations helped others. During his illness these donations gave him the best chance to fight and the strength to continue his daily workouts for as long as he was able.

Unfortunately, despite all efforts, he died four weeks later due to complications of the aggressive chemotherapy. I spent hours researching blood disorders, talking to friends who were lab technicians at Canadian Blood Services, and started a project delivering care packages for patients and families on the Acute Leukemia/Bone Marrow transplant ward where Dad spent his last days.

It seemed serendipitous when a position opened at the San Diego Blood Bank. To spend time with donors and co-workers who help save lives and give families hope is the greatest gift I can imagine and an amazing way to honor my Dad’s legacy.

That is an incredible story—thank you so much for sharing it. You work closely with various departments at SDBB—from nursing and community wellness to marketing and SDBB operations—and we’re wondering how you developed the acumen to collaborate so thoroughly across a complex organization?

The beauty of working at the San Diego Blood Bank is that everyone, no matter what their role, is working from a place of passion for donors, patients and what blood donation means to the community. We all have the same common goal: To provide an exceptional donor experience so donors keep coming back and we have a safe and adequate blood supply for our community.

Everyone has different skills and experiences to bring to the table. When we all work together, embrace each other’s strengths and understand that we all have the same common goal, I believe only good things can happen. My experience in counseling, group facilitation, staff training and quality improvement helps facilitate meaningful discussions to fulfill our collective mission to improve and save lives.

In what ways are you trying to improve/enhance the donor experience here at SDBB? What’s to come over the next 6-12 months?

At this point, I’m doing a lot of listening, reading every survey that is completed and hearing donor concerns, comments and suggestions. I’m reviewing what we are doing currently and what we have done in the past to determine what we should keep doing, what we should stop doing and what new things we might implement.

I recently attended the Association of Donor Relations Professionals Conference with colleagues from blood banks across the country and around the world and hope to stay connected with them to collaborate and share ideas. I’m open to any and all ideas from our donors and staff. I can be reached at nacedo@sdbb.org or 619-400-8223.

Let’s get personal! Who (or what) has been the biggest inspiration in your life and what have they taught you about courage, life and professionalism?

I have had many mentors throughout my career who have shaped who I am and how I try to conduct myself at work—Carmen Richardson, a mental health worker in the northern mining town where I started my career as an elementary and middle school guidance counselor; Roger Harris, a prevention and education consultant at the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, where I spent most of my career; and Antoinette Fallon, Director of Rachel’s Women’s Center, a drop in center for homeless women in downtown San Diego to name a few.

The biggest influence and inspiration in my life is my parents. My Dad, Nick Laping, played quarterback and point guard and coached football and basketball at the high school and college level, taught English and history, and was the director of human resources of a large automotive company. He was trained by Stephen Covey and taught his 7 Habits for Highly Effective People to hundreds of people. He worked out every day and, for the most part, ate healthy—although he liked steak, big breakfasts and a cold drink as much as anyone.

Everywhere we went, people knew him, and he treated everyone like they were the most important person in the world. After his death, the organization where he worked named the street entering the complex “Nick Laping Way.” They stated at the unveiling that they hoped everyone would come to work and choose to live the Nick Laping way.

As my parents drove home from cancer care after his diagnosis, my Dad’s first comment was, “No matter the outcome of my illness, I hope our family will learn something and become better people because of it.” The next morning, he was deep in thought and commented, “Leukemia is often a child’s disease…I could have got it when I was five years old…I am very lucky to have had 61 more years.” Our Dad, my best friend, was admitted to the hospital three days later. My mom did not leave that hospital for the whole four weeks.

The strength, courage and commitment my parents modeled always and especially during Dad’s brief illness helped me cope with that loss, taught me to appreciate everything life has to offer and made me a better wife, friend, sister and auntie to eight boys ages 4-20. What I learned from my past colleagues and continue to learn here at the San Diego Blood Bank helped prepare me for my dream job as blood donor experience manager.