Special column: Celebrate Black History Month by honoring blood bank inventor Dr. Charles Drew

11:10 AM EST, February 6, 2014


The processes of blood collection, storage and transfusion owes a huge thanks to Dr. Charles Richard Drew, the African-American doctor who not only pioneered large-scale blood banks during World War II but also envisioned blood drives and the use of refrigerated "bloodmobiles."

During Black History Month, Virginia Blood Services, one of Virginia's largest blood services provider, will highlight Dr. Drew's contributions to transfusion medicine.

"When you look at Dr. Drew's accomplishments in processing and preserving blood, you realize just how much he influenced modern blood collection," says Julie Moore, Executive Director of Virginia Blood Services. "The idea of separating plasma from whole blood simply revolutionized blood collection." She adds that Dr. Drew's hypothesis that a plasma transfusion could be given to anyone — regardless of blood type — revolutionized the field of transfusion medicine.

Dr. Drew pioneered many processes that continue today, such as creating a centralized location for blood collection, ensuring that only skilled personnel handled blood and testing plasma before it was shipped.

"In the early 1940s, whole blood only lasted about seven days before it became outdated," Moore explains. "But thanks to Dr. Drew's innovations, that changed."

As a Columbia University- Presbyterian Hospital resident in New York, Dr. Drew would later discover that by separating the red blood cells from the plasma — and freezing the two separately — that blood could be preserved and reconstituted at a later date. Dr. Drew was recognized in 1944 by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) with the Spingarn Medal for his contributions to medical science.

Please Honor Dr. Drew and donate blood this month. You will support area patients and help provide the strength, hope and courage to patients in need.

Virginia Blood Services holds daily blood drives and operates nine community donor centers with regular operating days and hours.

To make an appointment or for more information, call 800-989-4438 or visit vablood.org.