#HealthHistory Celebrating revolutionary individuals who made historical advancements in medicine
Dr. Charles Richard Drew
Meet Dr. Drew, also known as the “Father of the Blood Bank”. Dr. Drew made numerous contributions to medicine, including organizing America’s first large scale blood blank, finding new ways to preserve blood plasma as well as introducing mobile blood collection units.
During World War II, there was a vital need for research on how to preserve blood. With wartime casualties rising and injuries becoming increasingly severe, the need for blood plasma intensified. Dr. Drew, the leasing authority in the field, was selected as the medical director of the Blood for Britain Project.
The Blood for Britain Project was a U.S relief project initiated to collect and ship plasma overseas to Great Britain who was in desperate need of high quantities of blood and plasma to treat their wounded. Dr. Drew and his colleagues developed procedures for extracting plasma, preserving it against contamination and packaging it on a large scale. As medical director he supervised the successful collection of 14,500 pints of vital plasma for the British.
The Blood for Britain project became the model for the Red Cross Pilot led by Drew and others. Dr. Drew innovated programs to mass-produce dried plasma as well as introducing mobile blood collection units. These mobile blood collection units, or blood mobiles, formed the basis of “blood drives” that we know today.
Dr. Drew is also remembered for being outspoken about racial discrimination and segregation. He campaigned against the exclusion of black physicians from local medical societies, medical specialty organizations, and the American Medical Association. Dr. Drew also served as Head of the Department of Surgery and Chief of Surgery at Freedmen’s Hospital. In this role, his mission was to “train young African American surgeons who would meet the most rigorous standards in any surgical specialty” and “place them in strategic positions throughout the country where they could, in turn, nurture the tradition of excellence.” This, he believed, would be his “greatest and most lasting contribution to medicine.”
“Charles Richard Drew.” American Chemical Society, www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/whatischemistry/african-americans-in-sciences/charles-richard-drew.html.
“Charles R. Drew, MD.” Charles R. Drew, MD | Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, www.cdrewu.edu/about-cdu/about-dr-charles-r-drew.
“Charles Richard Drew.” Science History Institute, 25 Aug. 2020, www.sciencehistory.org/historical-profile/charles-richard-drew.