African American History Month
LifeStream joins the nationwide celebration of African American History Month, February 1-29!
By The Numbers
- 1 in 500 African-American children are born with sickle cell disease.
- Sickle cell patients regularly need blood transfusions to battle the disease.
- 70 percent of African Americans have blood type O or B. These blood types are in high demand.
- African Americans who require blood transfusions are best assisted by African American blood donors
Dr. Charles Drew
Dr. Charles Drew (1904-1950) developed the unheard-of notion to process and store blood plasma in “blood banks.” He also oversaw the blood plasma programs of the U.S. and Great Britain during World War II.
Specifically, he was asked to lead “Blood for Britain,” as war raged across Europe. He organized the collection and processing of blood plasma from several New York hospitals; also the shipments of these life-saving products overseas to treat war wounded people.
According to one report, Dr. Drew helped collect about 14,500 pints of plasma.
A gifted student and researcher, the future doctor earned both Doctor of Medicine and Master of Surgery degrees. He was the first African American to receive a doctorate from Columbia University.
Dr. Charles Drew was a pioneering physician to whom transfusion medicine and the medical field in general owe a great debt.
One pioneer who developed techniques and tools that have led to today’s modern heart surgery was Vivien Thomas.
At the age of 19, Thomas worked in a private infirmary to raise money for college and enrolled as a premedical student at a college in Tennessee. At the start of The Great Depression in 1929, Thomas lost his savings and was forced to drop out of school. However, in 1930, he took a position at Vanderbilt University as a laboratory assistant with Alfred Blalock, an American surgeon most noted for his research of blue baby syndrome. During a period when institutional racism was the norm, Thomas was classified, and paid, as a janitor, even though he was doing the work of a postdoctoral researcher in Blalock’s lab in the mid-1930s.
Blalock later took a position at Johns Hopkins in 1941 where Thomas joined his surgical team and helped train many of the surgeons at Johns Hopkins in the precise techniques necessary for heart and lung operations. Thomas’ surgical techniques included one he developed in 1946 for improving circulation in patients whose great vessels (the aorta and the pulmonary artery) were transposed. Vivien was presented with the degree of Honorary Doctor of Laws by the Johns Hopkins University in 1976.
Dr. Marilyn Hughes Gaston
Dr. Gaston’s 1986 study of sickle-cell disease led to a nationwide screening program to test newborns for immediate treatment, Dr. Gaston was also the first African American woman to direct a public health service bureau.
Her study resulted in Congressional legislation to encourage and fund SCD screening programs nationwide. Within one year, forty states had begun screening programs. One of the most important conclusions of her work was the ease with which the complications of Sickle Cell Disease could be avoided with early treatment, a life-saving practice that became a central policy of the U.S. Public Health Service.
Her scientific achievements, as well as her ongoing commitment to improving the health of poor Americans and Americans routinely subject to discrimination, have been recognized in many awards and honors, including every award given by the Public Health Service, and the most prestigious honor awarded by the National Medical Association—the NMA Scroll of Merit, in 1999. She also received the NMA’s Lifetime Achievement Award and several honorary degrees.
Join the Ranks of Dr. Drew, Vivien Thomas and Dr. Gaston. Help Save Lives.
LifeStream is proud to honor the memory of Dr. Charles Drew, Vivien Thomas and Dr. Gaston. Now is your chance to join the ranks of these remarkable people. Celebrate African American History Month. Give blood at any LifeStream location to be a hero to those in need.
To make an appointment, click below, call 800.879.4484 or download the LifeStream mobile app! Walk-ins are always welcome.