The Father of Blood Plasma Storage

Charles Richard Drew-The Father of Blood Plasma Storage

Charles Drew’s story is inspirational, especially considering that he grew up in America at a time when racial discrimination in education was the norm. The eldest son of a carpet layer, Drew grew up in Washington, D.C.(“Charles Drew.”). Although an average student in the class, Drew was a talented athlete winning several medals for swimming and football in his elementary years. After he graduated from Dunbar College, Drew would get a placement in the Amherst College on sports sponsorship. By 1926, Drew had completed his bachelor’s degree from Amherst but lacked enough funds to pursue his dream of joining a medical school (“About This Collection | Charles R. Drew – Profiles in Science.”). Instead, he became a biology instructor and coach at Morgan College for two years (“About This Collection | Charles R. Drew – Profiles in Science.”). Later in 1928, he applied and got enrolled at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. It is at McGill University that Drew academic prowess manifested (“About This Collection | Charles R. Drew – Profiles in Science.”). He became a top student and won several awards, including the prize in neuroanatomy.

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Drew interest in blood transfusion emerged during his internship and residency training at the Royal Victoria Hospital. While working with Dr. John Beattie, they identified and examined issues and problems that faced blood transfusions (“Charles Drew.”). However, when his father died, he decided to return to the United States and became an instructor at Howard University medical school; he also did surgery residency at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington. In 1938, Drew got a Rockefeller Fellowship to study at Columbia University; he also trained at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City (“Charles Drew.”). In both Columbia University and Presbyterian Hospital In New York, Drew continued his research on blood transfusions. It is during his time at Columbia University and Presbyterian Hospital in New York that he developed the methods of blood processing and storage that have revolutionized blood transfusion ever since. Drew discovered that unlike whole blood, plasma lasted longer and could be dried and stored or otherwise banked and reconstituted when needed. This was a groundbreaking discovery that would later save lives during Second World War 2.

By the time Drew was finishing his doctoral paper on Blood Banking, becoming the first African-American to graduate with a degree from Columbia University, the world was gripped in a Second World War in Europe (“Charles Richard Drew.”). The blood transfusions inventions that Drew had made became crucial to saving lives in the battlefield. Prior to Drew’s work on blood banking, the blood transfusion techniques were primitive compared to the modern standards (“Charles Richard Drew.”). The blood processing was limited, and people received whole blood instead of constituents (“Charles Richard Drew.”). Moreover, blood had to be transfused as soon as possible because the whole blood did not last long on the shelves. However, Drew techniques of processing whole blood to dry and store plasma so that it could be reconstituted when needed became crucial. Drew’s work in blood transfusion led to his call up to head the Blood for Britain Project. Essentially, with Europe in war, demand for blood was high to treat the wounded. The Blood for Britain Project was meant to collect blood and send it to Britain as quickly as possible.

Drew worked with John Scudder (who was his supervisor during his residency training at Presbyterian Hospital in New York) to safely collect, process, and store plasma for transport to Britain (“Charles Richard Drew.”). Drew organized large public blood transfusion exercises. The work of Drew in blood plasma processing and storage also became a model for the Red Cross pilot program of collecting dried plasma in mass in New York (“Charles Richard Drew.”). Drew helped the Red Cross to, among other things, design the bloodmobiles, essentially refrigerated trucks for blood donation and storage. However, when Red Cross said that it would exclude the African-Americans from donating blood, Drew resigned in protest (“Charles Richard Drew.”). Drew returned to Howard University, where he served as the head of the Department of Surgery; he was also the chief surgeon at the Freedmen’s Hospital (“Charles Richard Drew.”). However, having seen has racial discrimination denied African-Americans a chance to excel in science and medicine, he set out to train young African-American surgeons, training them to achieve the best standards that they would meet in any surgical specialty (“Charles Richard Drew.”). The other contribution of Drew in championing racial equality was his campaigns for the inclusion of the African-Americans in the local medical societies, specialty organization, and the American Medical Association. Drew died in 1950 after he fell asleep while driving to a conference in North Carolina (“Charles Richard Drew.”).

To sum up, Charles Drew is essentially the father of blood plasma processing and storage. Drew designed techniques of processing whole blood to extract the plasma, dry, and store it for later use. This was crucial to supporting the efforts of Americans to support Britain by sending blood overseas. The blood would be donated, processed, and shipped to Britain, where it could be reconstituted for use. However, apart from being a pioneer in the blood transfusion field, Drew championed racial justice by, among others resigning from the Red Cross in protest for its exclusion of the African-Americans from donating blood. In addition, Drew offered medical training to young African Americans so that they could join specialty medicine. Moreover, he championed African-American doctors to be included in medical societies and the American Medical Association.




















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