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Celebrating Black History

Dr. Charles Drew: Father of Blood Banking

Dr. Charles Drew was a pioneer in the blood banking industry, a researcher, and a prominent surgeon in the 1900’s. He became the first Black student to earn a Doctor of Medical Science from Columbia University for his thesis in 1940. Dr. Drew found that when he separated plasma from a whole blood donation, he could store or “bank” it longer. He also found that plasma can be distributed to anyone regardless of blood type.

After earning his doctorate, Dr. Drew was recruited to head the Blood for Britain Project during World War II. It was during this time that he was able to apply his thesis. Dr. Drew collected, tested, and transported plasma to treat wounded soldiers. It is reported that he collected 14,500 pints of plasma through his efforts. Dr. Drew was selected to lead blood collections for the military, but that only lasted a few months. The reason? Dr. Drew resigned in protest because military leaders wanted blood from Black donors stored separately and designated only for Black soldiers.

Why A Diverse Blood Supply Is Important

Dr. Drew and his efforts paved the way for Black donors, whose donations can help treat illnesses that disproportionately affect Black people, such as sickle cell disease. More than 100 million people worldwide have the sickle cell trait, and 1 in 3 Black blood donors are a match for a sickle cell patient. Sickle cell patients rely on regular monthly blood transfusions to stay healthy.

Posted on in Committed Hearts
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