Celebrating African American Medical Pioneers

Modern healthcare would not be where it is today without the contributions of African American medical professionals. Vivien Thomas, Dr. Marilyn Gaston and Dr. Charles Drew are just a few of the many African Americans who dedicated their careers to saving lives. 

Picture of Vivien Thomas
Vivien Thomas

Thomas was a laboratory supervisor who developed a procedure used to treat blue baby syndrome (now known as cyanotic heart disease) in the 1940s. 

Picture of Dr. Marilyn Gaston
Dr. Marilyn Gaston

Dr. Gaston’s 1986 study of sickle cell disease led to a nationwide screening program to test newborns for immediate treatment. She was also the first African American woman to direct a Public Health Service Bureau in 1990. 

Picture of Dr. Charles Drew
Dr. Charles Drew

As a pioneer of transfusion medicine, Dr. Drew developed the then unheard-of notion to process and store blood plasma in “blood banks.” He oversaw the blood plasma programs of the U.S. and Great Britain during World War II. According to one report, Dr. Drew helped collect about 14,500 pints of plasma. 

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% 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. 

Patients across the globe and the entire medical field owe Vivien Thomas, Dr. Marilyn Gaston, and Dr. Charles Drew a great debt. LifeStream is proud to honor their dedication to saving lives and celebrate Black History Month. 

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