Dr. Charles R. Drew Park

Dr. Charles Richard Drew (1904 - 1950) was a pioneer in the development of blood plasma preservation, as well as a surgeon and teacher. He also created the first “Blood Banks” to store large quantities of blood for medical use.

Charles R. Drew was born in Washington, D.C. the eldest of five children in an African American family. He excelled in school and was awarded a scholarship to Amherst College where he earned his B.A. in 1926, he received his medical degree from McGill University in Montreal in 1933, and his Med.D.Sc. from Columbia University in 1940. In 1935 he began his association with the College of Medicine of Howard University where he later returned to become professor and head of the Department of Surgery.

Drew’s research changed the world of medicine. Most notably, he demonstrated how to separate whole blood into red cells and plasma, and how they could be stored for longer periods of time. Drew’s development of a national blood bank was a great contribution to humankind and modern medicine. The early work toward this began in 1940, during World War II. when he was asked by Great Britain, which desperately needed blood and plasma to treat military and civilian injuries, to direct the Blood for Britain project. In doing so, he supervised the collection of an estimated 14,500 pints of plasma for the British. 

In 1941, the American Red Cross appointed Drew as the director of the first Red Cross blood bank, which put him in charge of providing blood to the U.S. Army and Navy. He established organizational standards, regulated production techniques, and ensured that safety protocols were followed. One of his key innovations was mobile blood donation stations, later called “bloodmobiles.” 

Drew tragically died in a car accident in 1950 at the age of 46. He is remembered for being outspoken against racial discrimination and segregation.


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