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Dr. Charles Richard Drew

Dr. Charles Richard Drew, Pioneer of Mass Blood Collection and Supervisor of the First Red Cross Blood Donor Service

February 23, 2010
by Haley A. Lovett
Dr. Charles R. Drew was a promising young doctor who quickly earned advanced medical degrees and began teaching and researching, particularly in the area of blood plasma collection and preservation. Dr. Drew was able to piece together findings by other doctors to create ways to mass-produce the collection and separation of blood plasma. He was later appointed the medical supervisor for the pilot program that became the American Red Cross’s Blood Donor Service. He was also one of the first African-Americans to become a member of the American Board of Surgery.

Biographies of Dr. Charles Richard Drew

The American Red Cross Museum provides great detail about Dr. Charles Richard Drew’s contributions to mass blood donation and preservation efforts, and about his role in supervising the very first Red Cross blood donation center.

PBS profiles Dr. Charles Drew as part of a series called “Red Gold—The Epic Journey of Blood.” This biography of Drew focuses on his early life, and points out instances of adversity he faced as an African-American doctor during his lifetime. It explains that Dr. Charles Drew left his position as director of the American Red Cross Blood Bank in New York because the military wanted the blood bank to type blood according to donor race and to refuse donations from African-Americans. Drew refused, knowing that race did not determine blood type, and he was asked to resign.

In 1966, the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles was named after Dr. Charles Drew. The university looks to provide medical care to under-served populations through research. Its biography of Drew lists a few of his later awards and honors, including his honorary degrees. Drew died in a 1950 car accident at the young age of 46.

Primary Source Material From Dr. Charles Drew

The National Institute of Health’s Annals of Surgery has the abstract of a 1940 paper co-written by Dr. Charles Drew and presented at the Meeting of the American Surgical Association, in which Drew and David C. Bull discuss the difference in the potassium levels of preserved blood versus fresh blood.

Dr. Charles Drew’s doctoral thesis “Banked Blood: A Study in Blood Preservation” can be found at the Columbia University Library (full text is not available online).

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