Dunbar High School
McGill University Faculty of Medicine
Charles Richard Drew was a famous American physician, surgeon and medical researcher. He is remembered for his outstanding innovations and researches on blood transfusions. His innovative techniques for better blood storage and researches in blood transfusion helped save thousands of lives during the World War II. His innovations revolutionized the medical profession and inspired many medical aspirants to follow his path. He was the director of ‘Blood for Britain’, the first blood bank project organized in the year 1940 to help British civilians and soldiers. He also served as director of the American Red Cross Blood Bank, which was established by him. Though he had an untimely death at the age of 46, his contributions had significant impact in the field of medicine, and provided a strong base for research on similar lines. Rightly referred to as the ‘Father of the blood bank’, this outstanding personality played a major role in organizing, conceiving and directing the first blood banking program in the history of America.
- Charles Richard Drew was born on June 3, 1904 in Washington D.C in a middle class African-American family to Richard who was a carpet layer and Nora Burrell who was a teacher.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.He was the eldest amongst his siblings and grew up in DC’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.He had keen interest in athletics and won many medals for swimming in his early years. Later, he switched to basketball, football and other sports. In 1922 he did his graduation from Dunbar High School. After his graduation he got a sports scholarship and went to Amherst College in Massachusetts and graduated from here in 1926.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.Due to lack of funds he was not able to enroll himself at the medical college. He worked as a biology teacher and a coach in Morgan College (Morgan State University, Baltimore) till 1928. He also became a part of Omega Psi Phi fraternity.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.In 1928 he applied to medical schools and got through at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He was awarded a prize in neuroanatomy and was also a part of Alpha Omega Alpha, which is a medical honor society.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.In 1933, he received his MD degree and also a Master of Surgery degree. He stood 2nd in a class of 127 students.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.He then did his residency and internship at Montreal general Hospital and Royal Victoria Hospital respectively. It was here when he met Dr John Beattie with whom he examined issues and problems pertaining to blood transfusions.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.In 1935, soon after his father left for heavenly abode, he returned to the United States and joined Howard University’s Medical School as an instructor. He did a surgery residence at Freedmen’s Hospital, the following year in Washington D.C.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.Career
- In 1938, he received Rockefeller Fellowship and went to Columbia University for further studies and received his training at Presbyterian Hospital situated in New York City. It was here that he resumed his exploration of blood related matters in collaboration with John Scudder.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.He was able to start a method of processing and preserving blood plasma or blood without cells. When plasma is separated from whole blood it can be banked for a longer period of time. He was able to derive a technique by way of which plasma could be dried and remolded as per requirement.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.In 1940 he received his doctorate degree with his research “Banked Blood” serving as his doctorate thesis. He graduated at Columbia University and gained his degree in Doctor of Medical Science thus becoming the very first African-American to accomplish this.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.In 1941 he became the first African-American surgeon who was selected to serve as an examiner on the American Board of Surgery. He later became a chief surgeon.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.Great Britain Blood Plasma Project
- In the late 1940s, John Scudder recruited him to help him set up and administer the program for blood storage and its preservation. This was before US entered the World War II and Drew had just gained his doctorate.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.Under the project, he was to collect, test and transport large blood plasma quantities that were meant to be distributed in Great Britain. He travelled to New York to lead United States’ “Blood for Britain” project that was meant to aid civilians and British soldiers by providing U.S. blood to the United Kingdom.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.Blood collection process was centralized by him where donors could donate blood. Each sample was tested before it was shipped. He took every possible measure to avoid poor handling and contamination of blood plasma. He closely monitored the shipments of these life-saving plasmas to treat war casualties.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.For five months, “Blood for Britain” project ran successfully with approximately 15000 people turning donors and approximately 5,000 vials of blood plasma collected.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.Personal Life & Legacy
- In 1939, he married Minnie Lenore Robbins. She was a home economics professor at Spelman College. They were blessed with three daughters and a son. His daughter Charlene Drew Jarvis served as the President of Southeastern University from 1996-2009.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.Drew died on April 1, 1950, as a result of a car crash. He along with three other physicians was heading for Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to attend a conference. Drew was driving the car which lost control and crashed near Burlington, North Carolina. The three other physicians escaped with minor injuries but Drew who was severely injured, succumbed to his injuries within half an hour after being attended at Almance General Hospital in Burlington, North Carolina.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.His funeral took place at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. on April 5, 1950.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.A popular myth regarding his death has been that he was refused a blood transfusion because of his skin color. This rumor spread like fire as in those days it was quite common to refuse treatment to blacks as the hospitals didn’t possess enough “Negro beds”.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.Drew received several posthumous honors. There are many schools and medical institutions that have been named after Dr Drew.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.In 1981, a postal stamp was issued by the United States Postal Services in its Great Americans Series to honor Drew.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.A dry cargo ship of the United States Navy has been named USNS Charles Drew.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.In 2002, Drew was listed as one of the 200 Greatest African Americans by Molefi Kete Asante.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.In 1966 a school was incorporated in California and that was named Charles R. Drew Postgraduate Medical School, which later became the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.Many medical colleges and schools have been named after him to honor his contribution.Something Wrong? Help Us Clean It Up. Tell Us About It.
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