Father of the blood bank

With limited options to attend medical school in the United States, African-American Charles Drew, MDCM’33, excelled in his medical studies at McGill, winning multiple prizes and finishing second in his class.

When Drew first became interested in transfusion medicine during his residency at the Montreal General Hospital, blood could only be safely stored for about a week before it began to spoil. Drew focused his efforts on blood plasma, which he determined could be used safely as a substitute for whole blood.

After developing a safe and sterile system for preserving large quantities of blood plasma, Drew put his techniques to the test as the medical supervisor for the Blood for Britain campaign during the Second World War, overseeing a fleet of refrigerated “bloodmobiles” that delivered plasma to wounded soldiers and civilians as Nazi warplanes rained bombs throughout England. Following the war, the Red Cross tapped Drew to lead its budding blood donor program.