Celebrating a Red Cross Pioneer During Black History Month

By Christie Peters, External Communications Manager, Biomedical Services

Dr-Charles-Drew

During Black History Month this February, the Red Cross celebrates the legacy of blood-banking pioneer Dr. Charles Drew.  Dr. Drew was an African-American surgeon who became the medical director of the first Red Cross blood bank in 1941. Drew’s research about the storage and shipment of blood plasma proved that blood could be stored for transfusions. During World War II, at the military’s request, Drew helped the Red Cross initiate a national blood program that collected 13.3 million pints of blood for use by the armed forces.

Donors of all blood types and ethnic backgrounds are encouraged to give to help ensure blood and platelet donations reflect the diversity of the patients who rely on them. Certain blood types are unique to specific racial and ethnic groups. Red blood cells carry markers called antigens on their surface that determine one’s blood type. There are more than 600 known antigens, and some are unique to specific racial and ethnic groups. Blood must be matched very closely for patients with rare blood types or those who need repeated transfusions. Patients are less likely to have complications from blood donated by someone of a similar ethnicity.

  • Every day, volunteer blood and platelet donors across the country are needed to help save lives. The Red Cross must collect more than 13,000 blood and platelet donations every day for patients at about 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers nationwide. Eligible donors are urged to make an appointment to give now by using the Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

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