The National Business League

Founded by Dr. Booker T. Washington – August 23, 1900


Charles Richard Drew

Charles Richard Drew

“Father of the Blood Bank”

When the carnage of World War II brought an acute need for sterile, readily accessible blood plasma to treat wounded soldiers on European battlefields, Dr. Charles R. Drew was the ideal choice. During a two-year fellowship at Columbia University, he had conducted blood banking clinical trials and stayed at the forefront of the latest blood preservation research. His belief in high standards, his top-notch attention to detail, and his ability to lead also prepared him for his task: establish stringent standards and processes to collect, produce, and store blood plasma, and organize the shipment of large amounts of plasma from the U.S. to Europe. As medical director of the Blood for Britain project from September 1940 to January 1941, he supervised the shipment of sterile, stable blood plasma to Europe, saving countless soldiers’ lives.

His expertise in blood collection, processing, and storage brought national and international acclaim. When the United States turned to developing its own national program in early 1941, Dr. Drew served as medical director of New York City’s Red Cross Blood Bank, the nation’s first large-scale blood bank. He put his creativity to work with the idea to use refrigerated trucks, “bloodmobiles,” as mobile blood collecting units. The Red Cross modeled the national blood banking program on Drew’s work.

Drew then turned his attention to what he saw as his life’s work: as chief of surgery at Howard University Medical School and chief surgeon at its affiliated Freedmen’s Hospital, he trained a cadre of Black surgeons, upholding them to the highest standards and working to place them in institutions and hospitals across the country. He constantly pushed against the racial barriers he and his students faced, fighting to secure internships and specialty training for his residents at white institutions, challenging segregationist hospital policies, and battling racial restrictions in all-white medical associations.

Dr. Charles Drew died tragically in a car accident in 1950 at just 45 years old. However, he left behind an incredible legacy. From 1941 to 1950, he trained over half of the Black surgeons certified by the American Board of Surgery, and another 14 surgeons who received part of their training from him passed the boards after his death. In 2015, Drew was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his lifesaving innovations in blood plasma preservation.