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Dr. Charles R. Drew Park

Dr. Charles R. Drew Park

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Dr. Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950) was a pioneer in the development of blood plasma preservation, as well as an exemplary surgeon and teacher. He was born in Washington, D.C. on June 3, 1904 and excelled in athletics in high school and college. Drew received his B.A. degree from Amherst College in 1926, his M.D.C.M. degree from McGill University in Montreal in 1933, and his Med.D.Sc. from Columbia University in 1940. In 1935 he began his association with the College of Medicine of Howard University where he later returned to become professor and head of the Department of Surgery.

In early 1940, when England was faced with a possible German invasion, the American Red Cross recognized that life-saving blood might be needed on a massive scale by British military and civilians. The man selected to serve as medical director of the pilot Plasma for Britain program was Dr. Drew who had already established his expertise in this field in a post-doctoral thesis at Columbia University titled Banked Blood. Using recent experimental research, he developed an efficient method for the mass production and shipment of plasma (cell-free sterilized blood) for blood transfusions. In anticipation of America’s entrance into the war, the American Red Cross Blood Bank was established the following year under Drew’s direction. The outgrowth of this pilot program was the American Red Cross Blood Donor Service which helped to save the lives of thousands of American soldiers wounded during World War II.

Drew was awarded the Spingarn Medal by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1944. He received honorary degrees from Virginia State and Amherst Colleges and was one of the first African-Americans selected for membership on the American Board of Surgery. On April 1, 1950, Drew was fatally injured in an automobile accident in North Carolina.

This property, along with four other park areas, was acquired by the City in 1946 and developed as part of the Van Wyck Expressway. It was named for Drew in 1952 by the City Council. In 1985, a $684,000 capital project renovated the playing fields, basketball courts, and other facilities.

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