Black Inventors and Innovators - Charles Drew
Charles Drew was born June 3, 1904 in WashingtonD.C. and died April 1, 1950 in Burlington, North Carolina. In his younger years Drew excelled at everything he did from academics to athletics. Drew was an all around athlete competing in high school in swimming, football, baseball, basketball and track and field. Drew won numerous medals and accolades in sports.
After high school Drew went to AmherstCollege and after graduation took a position at MorganState as the Athletic Director and a biology teacher. A few years later Drew enrolled at McGillUniversity in MontrealCanada to pursue his interest in medicine and graduated with Master of Surgery and Doctor of Medicine degrees. He would return to Washington D.C to work as an instructor of pathology at HowardUniversity.
After Howard University Drew worked as a resident and attended ColumbiaUniversityPresbyterianHospital, where he was the first Black to receive a Doctor of Medical Science degree and it was during this time that he started researching blood and blood transfusions.
Drew figured out a way to preserve blood for blood transfusions. Normally blood could be kept refrigerated for two days. Drew figured out that if the plasma was separated from the whole blood they could be refrigerated separately for up to a week and then combined later for transfusions. In addition Drew figured that some transfusions could be done with plasma only since everyone has the same plasma type but there are different blood types. With his findings Drew convinced Columbia University to establish a blood bank and Drew was soon asked to go to England to help set up that country’s first blood bank.
When World War II broke out Drew was named project director for the American Red Cross but quickly resigned after being told that blood taken from White donors should be segregated from that of Black donors.
In his later years Drew would return to HowardUniversity as the head of the Department of Surgery. Drew would receive numerous awards, accolades and honorary degrees during this time.
Charles Drew died when the car he was driving went out of control and turned over; there were three other doctors in the car with him at the time. Drew was taken to a nearby all White hospital. The legend surrounding Drew’s death was that he was refused a blood transfusion but the reality was that Drew was beyond help when he arrived and the hospital did everything they could to save him including giving him a blood transfusion.
Charles Drew was an amazing person his discover has given millions a second chance at life and his persistence in the face of adversity is truly amazing.