He attended Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in the nation’s capital and graduated in 1922, a time where America was hearing the voice of its’ 29th President over the radio for the first time. It was there he began to stand out athletically, participating in everything from baseball, football, basketball, swimming to track and field. Upon graduation, he received the James E. Walker Memorial medal, named so after the black officer of the First Separate Battalion from D.C. in 1896. This distinguishing acknowledgement was one of many to commemorate Drew’s all-around athleticism and an introduction to his dexterous leadership.
He went on Amherst College in Massachusetts, a liberal arts school where he aptly served the schools motto “Terras Irradient”, Latin for “Let them give light to the world”. And that he did. Although his physical skills yet again earned him prestigious athletic awards and acclamations, they served more as stepping-stones to his other goals. After graduation in 1926, he briefly taught and coached at Morgan State University in Maryland, earning enough money to afford medical school. In 1929, Drew entered McGill University in Canada receiving his M.D. and Masters in Surgery in 1933. While attending school in Canada, Drew became acclimated with the study of blood transfusion, the field where he would go on to lay fundamental groundwork.
After returning to the states, he accepted a teaching position at Howard University as a pathology instructor. In what seems like the nature of his being, exerting a copious amount of mental and physical energy, Drew simultaneously served as the assistant surgeon at Freedman’s Hospital, which would later become Howard University Hospital.
Pushing further into what would become the core of his life’s work, Drew found himself at Columbia University after accepting a Rockefeller fellowship. He received a PhD there; the first African-American to complete a doctorate in science from that school. While in attendance, he began advancing the science around blood transfusions, blood plasma preservations and making groundbreaking headway in studying the white blood cells. This work led him to assisting the British during World War II in establishing their blood bank. Consequently, he would come back to America and serve as the first director of the American Red Cross.
As part of his lists of accomplishments in 1943, Drew was the first black to serve as an examiner on the American Board of Surgery, established some thirteen years prior. In 1944, the NAACP awarded Drew with their Spingarn Medal. It serves a symbol of recognition for the renowned achievements of those who have made a considerable contribution to society as an African-American.
Dr. Charles Drew’s life ended tragically April 1, 1950 at the age of forty-five. He and other doctors visited the John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama annually beginning in 1939. Deciding to drive instead of fly, they were involved in an accident resulting in Dr. Drew’s death. At the age of 48, Dr. Charles Drew’s contributions to society have be substantial. His work has unconditionally impacted the lives of countless people all over the world.
By: Twiaina Tolliver-Clifton