"Father of the Blood Bank"
After three years at Howard, Charles Drew won a two-year fellowship for advanced training at Columbia University and Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. Under Dr. John Scudder, Drew would be studying blood chemistry and blood transfusion techniques-- something that had interested him since his time in Montreal-- as well as surgical techniques. During this time, he wrote a dissertation titled Banked Blood. This research would be the basis for his place at the forefront of blood bank research, while his surgical training at this time would be the basis for his later career as an educator at Howard.
It was also during this time that Drew met and married his wife, Lenore. When they married, she took up a household in DC while he completed his research in New York.
By the time he completed his dissertation, Drew was one of the top experts in the world on the topic of blood collection and transfusion, as well as the use of plasma. Plasma is essentially the liquid portion of blood, without the red blood cells. It is not a blood substitute, as without red blood cells, the blood can't transmit oxygen. But it can be invaluable in cases of heavy blood loss, and as such was invaluable in Europe, where World War II was already underway.
Soon after completing his fellowship and returning to Howard, Drew was named director of the Blood for Britain program, headquartered in New York. There he made sure that the standards for blood donation and storage were up to his stringant standards.
The Blood for Britain project became the model for the Red Cross's plasma program to support US troops in the war, as well as the National Blood Donor Service. In each of these, Drew was an important leader, establishing standards and procedures. It is for this work that he is best remembered.
Ironically, Drew would not have been able to donate at the blood banks that he helped pioneer. The still-segregated US Military specifically demanded that African Americans be excluded from donating blood. The profoundly wrong-headed logic of the time was that Black blood would "pollute" white soldiers upon transfusion, where Black soldiers would apparently see no ill effect from a transfusion of white blood.
Drew criticized this policy's racism as “unscientific and insulting to African Americans,” but there was little he could do.