John_and_dr_charlene_drew_jarvis_2On this day, over a relaxing lunch in Washington, D.C., I got to meet not just one legend, but two! Dr. Charlene Drew Jarvis is the one I got to meet — former Councilwoman for the District of Columbia, founding collaborator for NCRC, which is so very active now in revitalizing Anacostia and other low-wealth communities of Washington, D.C., and now president of Southeastern University. One bad (meaning "good") sista!

Better still, she is the daughter of the legendary Dr. Charles Drew, the black man that discovered blood plasma! And where would be without blood plasma, ladies and gentlemen?  Thank you Dr. Charles Drew — and thank you Dr. Charlene Drew Jarvis, my new friend, for sharing your dad with the world.

Your dad is proudly looking upon your accomplishments from heaven, I am sure….

Anyone whose life has been saved by a blood transfusion has Dr. Charles Richard Drew to thank. Dr. Drew was the medical researcher who discovered the way to store blood for long terms, making blood banks possible.

Charles Richard Drew was born in 1904, in Washington D.C. He was an exceptional student who excelled in sports as well as academics. When he lost a younger sister to tuberculosis, he developed an interest in becoming a doctor. He received an athletic scholarship to Amherst College in Massachusetts, where he became captain of the track team and also distinguished himself as a football player. He graduated from Amherst with honors in 1926 and went on to teach biology, chemistry, and physical education.

In 1926 he entered the Medical School at McGill University, Canada’s most prestigious institution of higher learning. At McGill, he became interested in blood research, and in 1933 received the degrees of Doctor of Medicine and Master of Surgery; he was second in his class of 137 graduates. Drew completed several internships in Canada, where he continued his research on blood chemistry. He then accepted a teaching position at Howard University and later won a fellowship to conduct research at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York.

It was at Columbia Presbyterian that Dr. Drew made a breakthrough discovery that if red blood cells could be removed from whole blood, the fluid that remained, plasma, could be preserved over long periods of time. Before that, attempts to preserve blood for use in medical emergencies had run into difficulties because the red blood cells deteriorated within a week. Dr. Drew earned the Doctor of Science in Medicine degree because of his success, and received many honors.

He became the first director of the American Red Cross Blood Bank, and when World War II broke out in Europe, the government of England asked Dr. Drew to organize its blood bank program to deal with heavy military casualties.

Dr. Drew’s system worked well, but he resigned from his position as director of the Red Cross’s Blood Bank in 1941 when the U.S. War Department sent out an order that the blood of Black donors and white donors should not be mixed. Dr. Drew argued that the decree, which he called a "stupid blunder," had no scientific basis.

Dr. Drew returned to Howard University as chief surgeon and Chief of Staff. He continued to teach, and was recognized throughout the 1940’s as a leading physician and scientist. In 1944 he received the Springarn Medal from the NAACP.

Dr. Drew met an untimely end at the age of 45, in 1950. He was in North Carolina, driving to a medical conference at The Tuskegee Institute. His automobile crashed, and Dr. Drew was seriously injured; other doctors in the car attended to him until he was taken to a nearby hospital. However, his injuries were too severe and he died of those injuries.

Let me know what you think of the great Dr. Charles Drew……

Onward, with HOPE

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