In honor of Black History Month and the upcoming World War II exhibit at the Museum of Texas Tech University, we have chosen to highlight the life achievements of Dr. Charles Drew, a leading innovator of the 20th century in blood plasma processing and storage.
Born on June 3rd 1904 in Washington D.C., Drew stood out as a talented athlete. He graduated as a four-year letterman from Dunbar High School showing potential for a career in sports coaching and administration. He attended Amherst University both running track and playing football.
While a professor of chemistry and biology at Morgan State College, Drew decided to pursue a life-long dream of attending medical school. He enrolled in the Medical School of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, graduating in 1933 second in his class with both his doctorate of medicine and masters in surgery. Drew then pursued multiple internships at hospitals in Montreal, Howard University and Columbia University, where he earned a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1938. This opportunity allowed him the resources to pursue his research of blood composition and storage. With World War II burgeoning in Europe, Drew developed a process in which plasma could be dried and preserved in mass quantities, making it easily accessible on the battlefield. Drew was chosen as the medical supervisor for the plasma collection effort for the American Red Cross in both Great Britain and the United States. In 1942, a controversial ruling regarding the segregation of blood by ethnicity caused Drew to resign from his position. He then accepted simultaneous offers for a position as a surgeon at Freedmen’s Hospital and a professor of medicine at Howard University.
Dr. Charles Drew died in a car accident on April 1st 1950 at the age of 45. He will always be remembered for his significant contributions to the wartime effort, as well as racial equality in the medical field.