Published by Kirby Winn on Thursday, February 10, 2022 in Blog
Blood providers across the U.S. and around the world celebrate the work of Dr. Charles Drew, a pioneer in the field of transfusion medicine. Raised in Washington D.C., Dr. Drew worked his way through college and medical school in the 1920s and 30s, joining the faculty of Howard University as an instructor in pathology in 1935. At the beginning of World War II, Dr. Drew helped lead a project called Blood for Britain, a collaborative effort by hospitals in New York to provide blood and plasma for hospitals in Great Britain.
Under Dr. Drew’s leadership, the Blood for Britain program developed refrigerated bloodmobiles for safe and efficient transport of blood components and created safe locations for blood donation that helped minimize contamination of blood products. The uniform standards he established for collecting, processing, and shipping blood donations became the foundation for much of our work today.
In 1941 Dr. Drew became the first Director of the American Red Cross and oversaw blood use for transfusions with the U.S. Army and Navy. Due to the practice of blood segregation based on race, Dr. Drew resigned from his position in 1942. He returned to Howard University and became chair of the Department of Surgery and Chief of Surgery at Freedmen’s Hospital where he devoted himself to training and mentoring his medical students and surgical residents, and raising standards in black medical education. He also campaigned against the exclusion of black physicians from local medical societies and the American Medical Association.
Dr. Drew met his wife, Minnie Lenore Robbins, while attending a conference in the spring of 1939. They were married later that year and together had four children. Dr. Drew died on April 1, 1950, in Burlington, North Carolina, from injuries sustained in a car accident. The telling of his tragic death often includes a persistent myth that he died because he was denied treatment by white doctors. Such stories have been repeatedly debunked, however. Contemporary reports show Dr. Drew received prompt and competent care from white physicians at a nearby hospital, but he was too badly injured to survive.
Today, Dr. Drew is rightfully celebrated as one of the most influential leaders in the history of blood banking. Learn more about Dr. Charles Drew here.