Black History Month

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▬ Charles Richard Drew

feb 6th: charles richard drew

Charles Richard Drew was born June 03, 1904, in Washington D.C. He was average in terms of schoolwork but excelled greatly at athletic. In 1922, he was recruited on a football and track and field scholarship to Ametyhest College in Massachusetts. There, Charles was only 1/13 black students attending out of 600 or so total students. He faced racial oppression daily, if not from enemy teams than his own. In Drew’s final year, his team passed him up as captain, even though he was the best player there.

Besides sports, he really had no clue what he wanted to do with his life. Somewhere along the line, a biology professor introduced him to the world of medicine. Like sports, the medical field was also incredibly racially pressed. There were limits for career options and education for people of color. Following a narrow path, Drew ended up studying at McGill University College of Medicine. He quickly shone against the rest, earning the annual scholarship prize neuroanatomy. At the same time, he was also accepted as an honor in the Alpha Omega Alpha society. In 1933, he graduated with his MD & CM, second in his class. For two years (1933-1935), he earned his residency at Montreal Hospital, which was also the place that sparked his interest in blood transfusion.

Charles dreamed of studying transfusion further at the Mayo Clinic, but the racial prejudices there heavily barred him and other future African-American practitioners. He settled on joining the faculty at the Howard University of Medicine, starting out as a pathology instructor. He progressed onwards to become the chief surgical resident at Freeman Hospital. Drew began studying for his doctorate degree (1938) at Columbia University when he earned the chance to train at Presytbian Hositpal under Allen Whipple. Instead of making Charles follow the usual order of becoming a resident, he assigned him to work under John Scudder, so that he could have closer contact with patients.

Together Scudder and Drew focused on controlling shock, fluid balance, blood chemistry preservation, and transfusion. He wrote a thesis about his findings, which Scudder praised, calling it “a masterpiece” and “one of the most distinguished essays ever written”. The thesis also made Drew the first African-American man to graduate from Columbia University.

Drew worked together again with Scudder and this time, E.H.L. Corwin to plan on safely collecting, processing, and storing large amounts of plasma. Successfully, they managed to do this, and in 1941, Red Cross adopted the idea. The Red Cross also adopted Charles’s invention of the bloodmobile- trucks that stored blood with refrigerators. He was now known as the father of the blood bank. Before Charles, blood could only be used for a week- tops, before it became spoiled and had to be thrown out. Millions of patients would die because there was no way to treat them. Charles saved the lives of his time and paved the way for future sciences later on.

He was not done yet, though. Although he had done so much for Red Cross, they still banned the use of African-American donors. He wasn’t allowed to participate in the very thing he had created! That policy was later modified (after much protesting on his part), and African-Americans were now allowed to donate blood. In October of that same year (1941), he returned to Howard University, serving as the Head of the Department of Surgery and the Chief of Surgery at Freedman Hospital.

Tragically, Charles Richard Drew died in North Carolina, April 1st, 1950. He had been driving- and fallen asleep. Although he was given a blood transfusion, he had ended up succumbing to his injuries.


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