Black History We Should Know: Dr. Charles R. Drew

Posted: February 5, 2013 in Black History
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Physician | Medical Researcher | Surgeon

Charles Richard Drew was a physician, surgeon, and medical researcher who made history in more ways than one. Drew was born in 1904 in Washington D.C. His athletic achievements in high school helped him gain a scholarship to Amherst College in MA where he graduated in 1926. There he also joined the Omega Psi Phi fraternity and thrived in sports. He went on to attend medical school at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, receiving his M.D. in 1933 as well as a Master of Surgery degree ranking 2nd in his class of 127 students. He did his graduate work at Columbia University where he earned his Doctor of Medical Science degree. He was the first African American to do so.

While in New York, Drew researched blood plasma and transfusions. By separating the liquid red blood cells from the near solid plasma and freezing the two separately, he found that blood could be preserved and used at a later date. He also established the American Red Cross blood bank, where he was the first director, and he organized the world’s first blood bank drive, nicknamed “Blood for Britain”. The British military used his process extensively during World War II, establishing mobile blood banks to aid in the treatment of wounded soldiers at the front lines. In 1941, the American Red Cross decided to set up blood donor stations to collect plasma for the U.S. armed forces.

After the war, Charles Drew took up the Chair of Surgery at Howard University, Washington, D.C. He received the Spingarn Medal in 1944 for his contributions to medical science. In 1950 Charles Drew died at age 46 from injuries suffered in a car accident in North Carolina, but we will remember him any time we visit the blood bank, or if we or a loved one is ever in need of a blood transfusion. Thank you Dr. Drew for your contributions to health and science.

  1. YBF says:

    Thank you so much for this info. I have been organizing blood drives at my job for over a year and never knew these important accomplishments.

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