Drew was born on June 3rd, 1904 to Richard and Nora
Drew, and was the oldest of their 5 children. During Dr. Charles
Drew’s early years he seemed to excel at whatever he attempted.
While he attended Dunbar High School in Washington D.C. he won
multiple awards in, swimming, football, baseball, basketball and
track and field! He excelled so well that he was awarded the
James E. Walker Memorial for Dunbar’s best all around athlete.
After Dr. Charles Drew graduated Dunbar High school, he attended
Amherst College located in Massachusetts to earn more athletic
recognition. Charles captained the track team, and won Amherst’s
Thomas W. Ashley Memorial trophy in his junior year for being
the most prized player on the school’s football team. Before his
graduation in 1926 he was awarded the annual Howard Hill Mossman
trophy for contributing the most to the school’s athletics
during his four years of school.
After Charles’ graduation from Amherst, he decided to take a
position at Morgan State University, located in Maryland, as a
biology and chemistry teacher. It was also during this time that
he decided on pursuing a career in medicine. So in 1928, he
resigned his teaching position to attend McGill University’s
Medical School, located in Montreal, Canada. During his time at
McGill University he earned two fellowships, his doctorate of
medicine and master of surgery degrees. In 1935, he returned to
the USA to begin working as a teacher in pathology at Howard
University, in Washington D.C., and advanced to become assistant
professor of surgery.
During the loom of World War II, Dr. Charles Drew was awarded
the Rockefeller Foundation of Research fellowship in Columbia
aiming toward advanced training in all medicine fields. It is
though this fellowship that he met Dr. Scudder and Dr. Allen O.
Whipple, together they began working on the problem of blood
storage. Early 1939, while supervising a blood bank in Columbia
Medical Center, Drew created a method for preserving blood
in order to travel great distances without spoiling.
Within the next year Dr. Charles Drew, graduated from Columbia
University with a doctor of Science Degree. While the war was
raging in Britain, Dr. Drew was asked to be the medical
supervisor by the Blood Transfusion Betterment Association. At
the climax of World War II, Nazi warplanes were bombing British
cities regularly and there was an extreme shortage of blood to
treat the wounded. In order to meet the huge demand for blood,
Drew initiated the use of "bloodmobiles" (trucks equipped with
refrigerators). After the success of "Blood for Britain," in
1941 Drew became director of the American Red Cross Blood Bank
in New York. While in New York Dr. Drew organized a blood drive
consisting with over 100,000 donors, for the U.S. Army and Navy.
However, when the Military issued the instruction to label all
blood by the donor’s race Dr. Drew was shocked and incensed. He
refused to label blood type of race since there was no
scientific evidence that blood type differed by race.
Without Dr. Charles Drew
complying to the Military’s request, he was asked to resign from
the project. He returned to Washington D.C. to resume his
teachings at Howard University. During his time at Howard
University, Dr. Drew trained physicians, residents and medical
students. Some of Dr. Drew’s colleagues and students talked him
into attending a medical meeting held at Tuskegee Institute as
part of its Founders Day Celebration. On the way to the
celebration, Dr. Drew fell asleep behind the wheel and
overturned the vehicle, which ended his life on March 31st
1950. The World lost an important pioneer of medical history,
and will never be forgotten.