Celebrating Black History Month and Honoring Dr. Charles Drew

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Virginia Blood Services is proud to observe Black History Month and the contributions that African-Americans have made to American history. In an effort to inspire our community as well as honor these accomplishments of our history as a nation, VBS is asking for a response to support life with blood donation throughout the month of February.

It’s startling to think that 37% of the general population is eligible to donate blood, yet fewer than 10% actually donate.  Less than 1% of these blood donations are from African-Americans. Some African-Americans have rare blood types, such as U-negative and Duffy-negative that are unique to the African-American Community.  African-Americans are also more likely to have type O and type B bloods, which are the most commonly used blood types for their ethnic group.  Blood type, like eye color, is an inherited trait.  Blood donors with these rare blood types may be the only hope for an individual’s survival.

Bringing awareness to these numbers is especially important when comparing them to the prevalence of blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia, which has a higher incidence within the African-American population.  Ninety-eight percent (98%) of the estimated 70,000-100,000 patients who have sickle cell are of African-American decent. Managing sickle cell can often require routine blood transfusions so; having a more ethnically diverse donor pool available for these patients may be their best hope.

African-Americans have the power to make a direct and measurable impact on the blood supply right here in our community.  Saving lives through blood donation means recipients and their families may have a gift of life and a promise of hope. Increasing donations made by people of diverse ethnic backgrounds is an important part of being able to provide hospitals with the blood patients desperately need. If blood supplies aren’t available when they are needed, sadly there is no substitute.

Help shed light on the importance of blood donation in the African-American community this February by choosing to donate blood.  Just one donation has the ability to impact three lives!  Let’s ensure that life supporting blood products are available for those who need them most, when they need them most.

Download our print friendly PDF for more information: HonorBlackHistory


Honoring Dr. Charles Drew

Check out this video our friends at One Blood Community Blood Bank produced on Dr Charles Drew.


The processes of blood collection, storage and transfusion owes a huge thanks to Dr. Charles Richard Drew, the African-American doctor who not only pioneered large-scale blood banks during World War II but also envisioned blood drives and the use of refrigerated “bloodmobiles.”

During Black History Month, Virginia Blood Services, one of Virginia’s largest blood services provider, will highlight Dr. Drew’s contributions to transfusion medicine.

“When you look at Dr. Drew’s accomplishments in processing and preserving blood, you realize just how much he influenced modern blood collection,” says Todd Cahill, Executive Director of Virginia Blood Services. He adds that Dr. Drew’s hypothesis that a plasma transfusion could be given to anyone—regardless of blood type— revolutionized the industry.

Dr. Drew pioneered many processes that continue today, such as creating a centralized location for blood collection, ensuring that only skilled personnel handled blood and testing plasma before it was shipped.

“In the early 1940s, whole blood only lasted about seven days before it became outdated,” Cahill explains. “But thanks to Dr. Drew’s innovations, that changed.”

Although others had developed the basic methods for plasma use, Dr. Drew instituted uniform procedures and standards for collecting blood and processing blood plamsa. In January 1941, Dr. Drew was appointed assistant director of a pilot program for a national blood banking system.

Dr. Drew was recognized in 1944 by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) with the Spingarn Medal for his contributions to medical science. Additionally, Dr. Drew’s innovative work was recognized by an appointment to the American-Soviet Committee on Science in 1943; honorary doctorates from Virginia State College (1945) and Amherst College (1947); and election to the International College of Surgeons in 1946.

Please Honor Dr. Drew and donate blood this month. You will support area patients and help provide the strength, hope and courage to patients in need.  Virginia Blood Services holds daily blood drives and operates 9 community donor centers with regular operating days and hours.  To make an appointment or for more information, call 800-989-4438 or click here.