@Surgeons, Facts and Personal Life
Charles R. Drew born at
In 1939, he married Minnie Lenore Robbins. She was a home economics professor at Spelman College. They were blessed with three daughters and a son. His daughter Charlene Drew Jarvis served as the President of Southeastern University from 1996-2009.
Drew died on April 1, 1950, as a result of a car crash. He along with three other physicians was heading for Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to attend a conference. Drew was driving the car which lost control and crashed near Burlington, North Carolina. The three other physicians escaped with minor injuries but Drew who was severely injured, succumbed to his injuries within half an hour after being attended at Almance General Hospital in Burlington, North Carolina.
His funeral took place at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. on April 5, 1950.
Charles Richard Drew was born on June 3, 1904 in Washington D.C in a middle class African-American family to Richard who was a carpet layer and Nora Burrell who was a teacher.
He was the eldest amongst his siblings and grew up in DC’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood.
He had keen interest in athletics and won many medals for swimming in his early years. Later, he switched to basketball, football and other sports. In 1922 he did his graduation from Dunbar High School. After his graduation he got a sports scholarship and went to Amherst College in Massachusetts and graduated from here in 1926.
Due to lack of funds he was not able to enroll himself at the medical college. He worked as a biology teacher and a coach in Morgan College (Morgan State University, Baltimore) till 1928. He also became a part of Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
In 1928 he applied to medical schools and got through at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He was awarded a prize in neuroanatomy and was also a part of Alpha Omega Alpha, which is a medical honor society.
In 1938, he received Rockefeller Fellowship and went to Columbia University for further studies and received his training at Presbyterian Hospital situated in New York City. It was here that he resumed his exploration of blood related matters in collaboration with John Scudder.
He was able to start a method of processing and preserving blood plasma or blood without cells. When plasma is separated from whole blood it can be banked for a longer period of time. He was able to derive a technique by way of which plasma could be dried and remolded as per requirement.
In 1940 he received his doctorate degree with his research “Banked Blood” serving as his doctorate thesis. He graduated at Columbia University and gained his degree in Doctor of Medical Science thus becoming the very first African-American to accomplish this.
In 1941 he became the first African-American surgeon who was selected to serve as an examiner on the American Board of Surgery. He later became a chief surgeon.
In the late 1940s, John Scudder recruited him to help him set up and administer the program for blood storage and its preservation. This was before US entered the World War II and Drew had just gained his doctorate.
Under the project, he was to collect, test and transport large blood plasma quantities that were meant to be distributed in Great Britain. He travelled to New York to lead United States’ “Blood for Britain” project that was meant to aid civilians and British soldiers by providing U.S. blood to the United Kingdom.
Blood collection process was centralized by him where donors could donate blood. Each sample was tested before it was shipped. He took every possible measure to avoid poor handling and contamination of blood plasma. He closely monitored the shipments of these life-saving plasmas to treat war casualties.
For five months, “Blood for Britain” project ran successfully with approximately 15000 people turning donors and approximately 5,000 vials of blood plasma collected.