Father of the Blood Bank

Learn about Dr Charles Drew and his phenomenal contribution to health care, as part of Black History Month…

Dr. Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950)

Dr Charles Richard Drew born 3 June 1904 and known as the ‘Father of the Blood Bank’ was the first African-American surgeon selected to serve as an examiner on the American Board of Surgery.

A pioneering African-American medical researcher, Dr Drew made some ground-breaking discoveries in the storage and processing of blood for transfusions. He also managed two of the largest blood banks during World War II – Blood for Britain and the American Red Cross.

Dr Drew developed a method for processing and preserving blood plasma, or blood without cells. Plasma lasts much longer than whole blood, making it possible to be stored or “banked” for longer periods of time. He discovered the plasma could be dried and then reconstituted when needed.

With World War ll at its peak and Britain in desperate need of blood and plasma to treat military and civilian casualties, Dr Drew was called upon to direct the ‘Blood for Britain’ project where he began a collaborative effort to collect and ship plasma to Britain. By the time Blood for Britain concluded in January 1941, more than 14,000 blood donations were collected and 5,000 litres of plasma shipped to England under Dr Drew’s leadership.

On the 1 April 1950 Dr Charles Drew sadly lost his life in a fatal car crash and although he died prematurely, Dr Drew left a substantial legacy, embodied in his blood bank work.

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