Charles R. Drew

Quick Look AT Drew

Charles Drew was an African American surgeon who ran America's first large-scale blood bank, and discovered methods for the long-term storing of blood plasma. His methods saved thousands of soldiers during World War II.

Early Life

Charles Richard Drew was born June 3, 1904, in Washington, D.C. He was the oldest child in his family, and from a young age, he was an outstanding athlete. In elementary school, he won many swimming medals, and in his later childhood, he began playing basketball, football, track and field, and other sports. He earned a sports scholarship to Amherst College, where he focused on football and track. Here, he was one of only 13 Black students. Drew had a dream of one day attending medical school, but after graduating with his bachelor's degree, he didn't have enough money.

College and Career

After school, Drew worked as a coach and biology professor at Morgan College, which is now known as Morgan State University. After working, and earning a living, he decided to attend McGill University, a college in Montreal, Canada. There, he won a prize in neuroanatomy and was a part of a medical honor's program. Drew graduated from McGill in 1933, earning his MD and Master of Surgery Degree. He was second in his class of 137 students. In 1935, he moved back to the U.S., where he taught pathology and surgery at Howard University College of Medicine. In 1938, Drew studied at Columbia University where he earned his doctorate. While he was there, he studied with John Scudder, and he developed a method of storing or banking blood plasma for long periods of time. Drew made history by becoming the first Black student to earn a doctorate from Columbia University. As World War II got bloody in Europe, Drew began collecting and storing blood plasma to help heal and treat the soldiers overseas. He ended up collecting over 14,500 pints of blood plasma and saved thousands of lives. He started his second Blood Bank in partnership with the American Red Cross. The Blood Bank was going smoothly until the military request that he did not give them any blood donated by African Americans. Outraged at the racism, Drew stopped the Blood Bank. In 1941, he returned to Howard University to continue teaching, and there, he became the first African American examiner for the American Board of Surgery. In 1944, Drew was awarded the Spingarn Medal for his Blood Banks. On April 1, 1950, he passed away in a car accident at the age of 45.

Charles Drew helped save thousands of lives and he accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. Drew was truly a legend and a scholar.