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VBS celebrates BHM by honoring blood bank inventor

2/19/2014, 9:54 a.m.
The processes of blood collection, storage and transfusion owes a huge thanks to Dr. Charles Richard Drew, the African-American doctor ...
Dr. Charles Drew

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, is highlighting 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,” said Julie Moore, executive director of Virginia Blood Services. “The idea of separating plasma from whole blood simply revolutionized blood collection.”

Moore said that Drew’s hypothesis that a plasma transfusion could be given to anyone—regardless of blood type— revolutionized the field of transfusion medicine.

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“In the early 1940s, whole blood only lasted about seven days before it became outdated,” Moore said. “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. 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.