Facts about Charles Drew

Charles Drew died at 45 years old
Born: June 3, 1904
Best known as: The inventor of the blood bank

     

Charles Drew Biography

Dr. Charles Drew is called the father of the modern blood bank for his work in making possible the long-term storage of human plasma.

Charles Drew grew up in Washington, D.C. and attended Dunbar High School there. He graduated from Amherst College in 1926, then went to medical school at Montreal’s McGill University, where he received both MD and CM (master of surgery) degrees in 1933. Drew joined the faculty of the medical school at Howard University in Washington, D.C., but it was while doing advanced studies at Columbia University that he made the discovery for which he is known.

In 1940, Drew published a paper showing that when plasma is separated from the rest of human blood, it can be stored for much longer periods of time. This discovery allowed the creation of blood banks, where donated plasma could be kept until urgently needed.

Drew became the medical director of the first Red Cross blood bank in 1941, and his discovery saved uncounted lives during World War II.

Charles Drew spent much of his later career teaching at Howard University in Washington, D.C.,; he also became chief of staff and medical director at nearby Freedman’s Hospital. He died after a 1950 car crash.

Extra credit

Charles Drew was an African-American, but contrary to popular rumor he did not bleed to death when a segregated Southern hospital refused to give him a transfusion after a car crash. He received timely treatment by white doctors, but died of the overwhelming injuries he suffered in the accident… Charles Drew married the former Minnie Robbins in 1939. They had four children: daughters Bebe, Charlene, and Rhea, and son Charles Jr.  Charlene, then Charlene Drew Jarvis, was later president of Southeastern University… Dr. Charles Drew was honored with a U.S. postage stamp in 1981.


     

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