Did you know that Charles Richard Drew was born today in 1904? He was a doctor, researching and is known as the “father of the blood bank”. Charles Drew faced considerable prejudice and opposition because of his African American heritage. Nevertheless, he worked hard to earn medical degrees, awards, and other honors. Drew researched and found ways to improve blood transfusions including collection (bloodmobiles), checking for contamination, storage, and transportation. Using his new methods, Drew collected almost 15,000 blood donations, which were sent to Great Britain to help treat those injured during World War II. Later, Drew’s procedures were used to create what would eventually become the American Red Cross Blood Bank.
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Even though Charles Drew earned awards while earning his Master of Surgery degree from McGill University in Montreal Canada, he was discriminated against. Many major American Medical centers barred African American scholars from their schools and practices. Drew wanted to continue his studies and training at the Mayo Clinic, but he was barred and instead joined the faculty at Howard University. While earning his doctorate degree at Columbia University, instead of working in clinics and laboratory research, Drew was assigned to work on an experimental blood blank, because the administration did not want him to have access to patients.
John Scudder was in charge of the blood bank project. He thought that Drew was an exceptional student.
The first blood bank Drew worked with was part of the Blood for Britain Project, which was set up to gather and transport blood to Great Britain, which had a great need during World War II. Charles Drew helped to collect and process almost 15,000 blood donations.
Charles Drew’s teams worked to collect and prepare blood plasma for transportation to Great Britain. Plasma is a yellow liquid that carries blood cells through the body. Plasma is more stable than whole-blood, can be used with any blood type, and is more resilient during transport.
Initially, because of prejudice, African American were excluded from donating blood. Charles Drew protested this policy, stating that they were unscientific and insulting. Later, African Americans were allowed to donate blood, but the donations were segregated. Charles Drew eventually resigned his post with the American Red Cross in protest. This policy lasted until the 1950s.
As a young adult, Charles Drew was an athlete. He attended Amherst College on a football and track and field scholarship.
Charles Drew’s eldest daughter was named Bebe, which came from BB, the abbreviation for blood bank, the project Drew was working on at the time.