Charles Richard Drew was born on June 3, 1904, in Washington, D.C. His father, Richard, was a carpet layer, and his mother, Nora, was a school teacher. Drew was the eldest of the couple’s five children.
Drew strived to earn good grades while he attended elementary, as well as high school. Athletics, however, came naturally to Drew, and he easily won four medals in the field of swimming by the time he was eight years old.
During his junior and senior years at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, Drew received the James E. Walker Memorial Medal for his excellent athletic skills. Drew was a valued member of the football, basketball, baseball, and track team.
After high school, Drew attended Amherst College. He was honored with the Howard Hill Mossman Trophy for his athletic performances durng his four years at Amherst.
The young African-American man lacked the funds he needed to enter medical school, so he
worked and saved his money. Finally, in 1928, he went on to attend medical school at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Naturally, he performed well in sports at McGill too.
All of Drew’s hard work to date paid off when he received a fellowship for specialized training at Howard University’s Medical School. This allowed him to study at Columbia University Medical School. Charles Drew’s interest was blood. Specifically, “blood transfusions.” He wanted to learn all he could about the subject.
He studied “blood banking” which is the process of collecting and storing blood for transfusions. Through his experiments, Drew found out that blood plasma could be succesfully used instead of whole blood. Plasma had a longer “shelf life” than whole blood. The following year, in 1940, Drew wrote the results of his experiments up in a published report.
Through his discovery that blood could be separated, and the plasma could be kept until it was needed for a blood transfusion, Drew, in essence created “blood banks”.
Dr. Charles Drew then became the medical director of the first Red Cross blood bank in 1941. Just in time to save numerous lives during World War II. He was also named the assistant director of the National Research Council. He was in charge of the blood banking for the Army and the Navy forces.
His career then led him to teach at the Howard University in Washington, D.C. The African-American inventor also became the chief of staff and the medical director at Freedman’s Hospital.
On April 1, 1950, when he was just forty-five years old, Dr. Drew was on his way to the Andrew Memorial Clinic in Tuskegee, Alabama. He was scheduled to give a lecture at the clinic. Unfortunately, his car left the roadway in North Carolina, and he was seriously injured in the crash. He died of “massive internal injuries” later at a hospital.