Charles Richard Drew: The Bud Behind the Blood

Emaleigh Shriver, Staff Writer

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Despite Charles Richard Drew living in a time period when African-Americans were looked down upon, he was still able to make groundbreaking discoveries in the storage and processing of blood for transfusions.

  • Drew went to Amherst College on an athletic scholarship for track and football.
  • He completed his bachelors in 1926 because he didn’t have the money for medical school.
  • Worked as a biology instructor and coach at Morgan College for two years.
  • In 1928 he enrolled at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
  • He won a prize in neuroanatomy, became a member of Alpha Omega Alpha (which is a medical honor society), and graduated with a rank of 2 out of 127 and a Doctor of Medicine and Master of Surgery degree in 1933.
  • He got a residency and internship at Royal Victoria Hospital, and Montreal General Hospital.
  • Studied over the problems and issues with blood transfusions.
  • Returned to the United States when his father died, and became an instructor at Howard University’s medical school in 1935.
  • Did a surgery residence at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington D.C. as an addition to his work at the university.
  • Received a Rockefeller Fellowship to study at Columbia University and train at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.
  • There he studied more blood-related matters with John Scudder.
  • He developed a process to preserve blood plasma because it could last longer by being dried and reconstituted whenever it was needed.
  • His thesis titled “Banked Blood” earned him a doctorate degree in 1940 which made him the first ever African-American to earn this degree from Columbia University.
  • His work in organizing collections of blood allowed many people to treat casualties in World War II. His work helped collect about 14,500 pints of plasma.
  • He worked for the American Red Cross to develop blood banks for the United States military.
  • He fought against African-American blood segregation, but the United States only decided to allow African-American blood to be sent to African-American soldiers.
  • He created two of the first blood banks.
  • He became a professor, and head of the department of surgery at Howard University in 1941.
  • He was the Chief Surgeon at Freedmen’s Hospital.
  • He became the first African-American examiner for the American Board of Surgery.
  • The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People gave Drew a Spingarn Medal for “highest and noblest achievement” by an African-American “during the preceding year or years”.
  • He stayed as the Chief surgeon and professor at Howard University until he died in a car crash on April 1, 1950.