AT A GLANCE:
The American Red Cross blood program of today is a direct result of the work of medical pioneer Dr. Charles Drew, beginning in 1940 and throughout World War II. Dr. Drew was instrumental in developing blood plasma processing, storage and transfusion therapy. His groundbreaking work in the large-scale production of human plasma was eventually used by the U.S. Army and the American Red Cross as the basis for blood banks.. THE STORY
1904 Charles Drew born on June 3, in Washington D.C.
1939 Drew married Minnie Lenore Robbins, and they had four children
1940 Completes his doctoral thesis, titled "Banked Blood: A Study in Blood Preservation".
1940 Drew was appointed medical supervisor of the "Plasma for Britain" project.
1941 Drew was named director of the newly formed Red Cross Blood Bank .
1950 Drew died on April 1, in an auto accident while traveling to a medical convention
CAPS: Drew, Charles Drew, Charles Richard Drew, Dr. John Scudder, American Red Cross, ARY, blood bank, blood plasma, dried blood, blood transfusion, SIP, history, biography, inventor, invention, story, facts.
Dr. Charles Richard Drew was the first person to develop the blood bank. His introduction of a system for the storing of blood plasma revolutionized the medical profession. Drew first utilized his system on the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific during World War II. He organized the world's first blood bank project in 1940 - Blood for Britain. He also established the American Red Cross Blood Bank, of which he was the first director.
Drew was born in Washington, D.C. June 3, 1904 to Richard and Nora Drew, and was the oldest of five children. In his youth he seemed headed for a career in athletics and the coaching field rather than for medicine, starring as a four letter man in Dunbar High School, Washington. He went on to study at Amherst College, where he was a star athlete, all-American half-back and captain of his Amherst College football team.
After graduation, Charles Drew was a coach and a biology and chemistry instructor at Morgan State College, Baltimore, Maryland. But a turning point in his life was at hand. It had become his ambition to enter the field of medicine. He resigned his job at Morgan State and went to Montreal, Canada, where he enrolled in McGill University's Medical School. There he was granted two fellowships and was awarded his doctorate of medicine and master of surgery degrees.
For two years following graduation, Dr. Drew was an intern and resident in Montreal hospitals. In 1935, he returned to the United States to accept an appointment as instructor in pathology at the College of Medicine of Howard University in Washington, D.C. During the next two years, he advanced to become assistant professor of surgery.
Dr. Drew showed such promise in his work at Howard University that in 1938, at a time when war clouds were gathering over Europe, he was recommended for one of the Rockefeller fellowships at Columbia aimed at promoting advanced training in all fields of medicine. It was through this fellow ship that he met Dr. John Scudder and began study under him.
Dr. Drew was married in 1939 to Minnie Lenore Robbins, and they had four children, Bebe Roberta, Charlene Rosella, Rhea Sylvia, and Charles Richard, Jr. Shortly after, Dr. Drew earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from Columbia University in 1940, with a 200 page doctoral thesis under the title "Banked Blood: A Study in Blood Preservation".
Drew received an urgent cablegram from a former teacher, who had returned to England. The cable requested 5,000 glass containers of dried plasma for transfusions, plus the same amount three weeks later. A large project was started in August 1940 to collect blood in New York City hospitals for the export of plasma to Britain. Dr. Drew was appointed medical supervisor of the "Plasma for Britain" project. His notable contribution at this time was to transform the test tube methods of many blood researchers, including himself, into the first successful mass production techniques.
By this time it had become apparent that America probably would be drawn into the war. Military authorities in the United States were concerned with the need for a stockpile of blood reserves if hostilities should begin. Dr. Drew had emerged as a leading authority on mass transfusion and processing methods.
After discussions with medical leaders and the American Red Cross, the government asked the Red Cross to establish a pilot program similar to the Plasma for Britain Project but on a smaller scale. Charles Drew was named director of the Red Cross Blood Bank and assistant director of the National Research Council, in charge of blood collection for the United States Army and Navy. The pilot center was set up through the Red Cross chapter in New York City and began operation in February 1941.
In 1941, Dr. Drew returned to Howard University, where he gained new distinction, particularly in the training of young surgeons. He had spent a total of seven months in the two blood projects, yet in this very brief but productive period of his professional life, he made an outstanding contribution to what was to become a highly successful World War II blood procurement effort.
After Dr. Drew's return to Howard, he was appointed to several scientific committees and received honorary degrees from Virginia State and Amherst Colleges in 1945 and 1947. He was one of the first of his race to be selected for membership on the American Board of Surgery. He also received the Spingarn Medal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1944 for his outstanding contribution to human welfare.
The experience gained through Dr. Drew's efforts at the Red Cross New York center proved invaluable, and during World War II, 35 blood bank centers were in operation. By war's end, millions of donations had been received by the Red Cross, donations that made possible the saving of thousands of lives of wounded U.S. servicemen lives that would have been lost in earlier wars when blood therapy was unknown.
Mankind suffered a great loss in 1950 when, at the age of 45, Dr. Drew was killed in an automobile accident while driving to a scientific conference. His pioneering medical work has endured. How many lives have been saved because of his genius at turning basic biological research into practical production methods is impossible to determine. But it is a certainty that mankind owes a debt of gratitude to Charles Richard Drew.
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Inventor: Charles Richard Drew
Charles Drew photo courtesy Dr. Charles Drew, Medical Pioneer book cover
Criteria: First practical. Modern prototype.
Birth: June 3, 1904,in Washington, D.C.
Death: April 1, 1950 while traveling in rural North Carolina.
Invention: Blood Bank
Blood drive photo courtesy American Red Cross
Function: noun / blood plasma
Definition: A place, usually a separate division of a hospital laboratory, in which blood is collected from donors, typed, and often separated into several components for future transfusion to recipients. The American Red Cross operates the largest blood bank in the U.S.