Infant death, bad science, blood banks, and more…

FSM Friends’ News and Articles

CDC data reveal frustrating infant death statistics: “Cases of SIDS plummeted by more than 50% when parents began putting their babies to sleep on their backs. The campaign was a stunning success and has saved thousands of lives… Because more than 70% of SIDS cases involved unsafe sleep environments, it is crucial that we figure out why caregivers aren’t following our recommendations. It is imperative that we develop more effective ways to educate these caregivers.”

We can’t fight pandemic with bad science: “A blanket of misinformation has enveloped every corner of this pandemic. Endorsements of pseudoscientific cures have resulted in public confusion, death and financial loss. Conspiratorial origin stories – from the idea that the coronavirus is a bioweapon to the belief that it is caused by 5G technology – have enabled an ideological polarization of public discourse and helped to erode public trust in public health authorities seeking to promote needed prevention strategies”.

Great Moments in Health and Science 

Dr. Charles R. Drew, the father of blood banks: We take it for granted now that, when anyone experiences significant bleeding, there’s a safe blood supply readily available to treat them. We didn’t always have that supply, and it wasn’t always available to everyone. Today’s Moment of Science… Dr. Charles R. Drew, the father of blood banks.

In 1904, Charles Richard Drew was born and grew up in the Washington, DC area. As a Black child at the turn of the century, though schools were segregated, he had the fortune of being in one of the best college prep high schools in the country. The teachers received competitive salaries, attracting talented faculty with upper level degrees, many with their doctorates. But Charlie – as he continued to be called through adulthood – was more interested in sports. A decent student for sure, but not the kid his teachers looked at and thought “that kid I taught in 1919 biology is gonna save more lives than anybody I have ever or will ever know.” He lettered in four sports, being voted both most popular and most athletic his senior year. He went to Amherst College on an athletic scholarship, and somewhat out of the blue decided to go into medicine at a time when very few schools trained Black doctors. He was accepted to Harvard but, only being allowed deferred entry a year later, opted to attend McGill University in Montreal so he could start courses immediately. He graduated in 1933, second in his class. Not bad for a “decent” student.

While at McGill, Drew worked with visiting British physician John Beattie, an anatomy researcher who’d been investigating blood donation. At the time it was being looked into for treating what was deemed ‘shock therapy.’ The term referred to the concept of going into shock due to blood loss. That and “lack of oxygen to the brain due to not having enough fucking blood so give me some fucking blood” therapy was a touch wordy. Because just getting an MD wasn’t enough, Drew went to Columbia University in 1938 to work on a doctorate researching blood donation. In 1939, he married Minne Lenore Robbins. Over the next decade they had four children. It would be the last decade of his life.

In 1940, his doctoral thesis, ‘Banked Blood: A Study in Blood Preservation’ was completed. It was his seminal work on the science of blood donation, changing the field forever. In the early 1900s, Rh factor and blood types had been identified by Austrian physician Karl Landsteiner, along with the understanding that some of these blood types didn’t play well with others. Drew went on to establish that some patients who didn’t need a whole blood donation could be treated with plasma donations. His research led to freeze dried plasma, a readily available blood product with a long shelf life. He was appointed the medical supervisor of the Blood for Britain project in 1940, amassing donations from about 15,000 people. The plasma was collected to send to the British military before the US entered the war. His work saved the lives of countless soldiers in WWII. The following year, the American Red Cross tasked Drew with launching the national blood donation program. Bloodmobiles and mobile blood drives? All Dr. Charles Drew! The work he started is carried on to this day.

Unfortunately, Drew’s tenure at the Red Cross was not to be long-lived. They had this problem where they were, uh, racist fucks who thought it was a good idea to tell the Black doctor who figured out how blood donation worked “hey, we’ve gotta segregate the black and white blood, you know how it is, right?” He did not, and he quit, because fuck those guys. He taught at Howard University for the rest of his career, setting out with a mission to “train young African American surgeons who would meet the most rigorous standards in any surgical specialty” and “place them in strategic positions throughout the country where they could, in turn, nurture the tradition of excellence.” Legend.

In 1950, the American Red Cross ended their policy of racially segregating blood. The same year, Dr. Charlie Drew died in a car crash. He believed his legacy would be in the generation of Black doctors he was training at Howard University, perhaps not realizing how profoundly he’d already changed the face of medicine forever.  This has been your daily Moment of Science, remembering that we all bleed red.

Lesser-known Health Professions

What is a Medical Science Liaison? Medical Science Liaisons are most often former healthcare professionals who transition into an advisory or consulting role with certain sub-sections of the healthcare industry or certain leaders. Medical Science Liaisons often work with physicians, clinicians, and researchers to provide critical insight into certain products, scientific advice, knowledge experts, and advice on upcoming treatment plans and initiatives. In addition, Medical Science Liaisons will often provide advice based on certain clinical data or scientific research for the healthcare industry.