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Encyclopedia > Vivien Thomas
Vivien Theodore Thomas
Vivien Theodore Thomas
Vivien Thomas' autobiography, Partners of the Heart: Vivien Thomas and His Work With Alfred Blalock
Vivien Thomas' autobiography, Partners of the Heart: Vivien Thomas and His Work With Alfred Blalock

Vivien Theodore Thomas (August 29, 1910November 26, 1985) was an African-American surgical technician who helped develop the procedures used to treat blue baby syndrome in the 1940s. He was an assistant to Alfred Blalock at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and later at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Without any education past high school, Thomas rose above poverty and racism to become a cardiac surgery pioneer and a teacher to many of the country's most prominent surgeons. Image File history File links Download high resolution version (788x725, 57 KB) File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (788x725, 57 KB) File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Image File history File links Vivien_Thomas2. ... Image File history File links Vivien_Thomas2. ... August 29 is the 241st day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (242nd in leap years), with 124 days remaining. ... 1910 (MCMX) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a common year starting on Sunday of the 13-day slower Julian calendar. ... November 26 is the 330th day (331st on leap years) of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1985 (MCMLXXXV) was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... An African American (also Afro-American or Black American) is a member of an ethnic group in the United States whose ancestors, usually in predominant part, were indigenous to Africa. ... Surgical Technologist A surgical technologist is a health professional part of the operating room team also called scrubs and surgical or operating room technicians, assist in surgical operations under the supervision of surgeons, registered nurses, or other surgical personnel. ... A cyanotic newborn, or blue baby Blue baby syndrome (or simply, blue baby) is a laymans term used to describe newborns with cyanotic conditions, such as: Cyanotic heart defects Tetralogy of Fallot Dextro-Transposition of the great arteries Hypoplastic left heart syndrome Methemoglobinemia On November 29, 1944, the Johns... The 1940s decade ran from 1940 to 1949. ... Alfred Blalock (April 5, 1899 – September 15, 1964) was a 20th century innovator in the field of medical science most noted for his research on the medical emergency condition shock and blue baby syndrome. ... Vanderbilt University is a private, nonsectarian, coeducational research university in Nashville, Tennessee. ... Nickname: Music City Location in Davidson County and the state of Tennessee Coordinates: Country United States State Tennessee Counties Davidson County Founded: 1779 Incorporated: 1806  - Mayor Bill Purcell (D) Area    - City 1362. ... The Johns Hopkins University, founded in 1876, is a private institution of higher learning located in Baltimore, Maryland, United States. ... Nickname: Monument City, Charm City, Mob Town[1][2] Motto: The Greatest City in America[3], Get in on it. ... A boy from an East Cipinang trash dump slum in Jakarta, Indonesia shows his find. ... Manifestations Slavery · Racial profiling · Lynching Hate speech · Hate crime · Gay bashing Genocide · Holocaust · Pogrom Ethnocide · Ethnic cleansing · Race war Religious persecution Movements Discriminatory Aryanism · Neo-Nazism · Hate groups White/Black/Latino supremacy Radical Islam · Fundamentalism · Kahanism Anti-discriminatory Abolitionism · Civil rights · Gay rights Womens/Universal suffrage Childrens rights... Cardiac surgery is surgery on the heart, typically to treat complications of ischemic heart disease (e. ...

Contents

Early history

Dr. Thomas was born close to Lake Providence, Louisiana. The son of a carpenter, he attended Pearl High School (now known as Martin Luther King Magnet High School, for Health Science and Engineering) in Nashville in the 1920s. Even though it was part of a racially segregated system, the school provided him with a high-quality education. Thomas had hoped to go to college and study to become a doctor, but the Great Depression derailed his plans. He had worked at Fisk University in the summer of 1929 doing carpentry, but was laid off in the fall. In the wake of the stock market crash in October, Thomas felt compelled to put his educational plans on hold temporarily, and through a friend, he secured a job as a laboratory assistant in February 1930 with Dr. Alfred Blalock at Vanderbilt University. When Nashville's banks failed nine months later and Thomas' savings were wiped out, he abandoned entirely his plans for college and medical school, relieved to have even a low salary job as the Great Depression deepened. The town of Lake Providence is the parish seat of East Carroll Parish, in the US state of Louisiana. ... The 1920s was a decade sometimes referred to as the Jazz Age or the Roaring Twenties, usually applied to America. ... The Rex Theatre for Colored People, Leland, Mississippi, June 1937 Racial segregation is creamy jizz of different races in daily life when both are doing equal tasks, such as eating in a restaurant, drinking from a water fountain, using a rest room, attending school, going to the movies, or in... The Great Depression was a worldwide economic downturn which started in October of 1929 and lasted through most of the 1930s. ... Fisk University is a historically black university in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. It was established by John Ogden, Reverend Erastus Milo Cravath and Reverend Edward P. Smith and named in honor of General Clinton B. Fisk of the Tennessee Freedmens Bureau. ... 1929 (MCMXXIX) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will take you to calendar). ... Black Monday (1987) on the Dow Jones Industrial Average A stock market crash is a sudden dramatic decline of stock prices across a significant cross-section of a market. ... Year 1930 (MCMXXX) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link is to a full 1930 calendar). ...


Meeting Alfred Blalock

From the very beginning Thomas showed an extraordinary aptitude for surgery and precise experimentation, and Blalock granted him wider and wider latitude in the execution of the protocols. Tutored in anatomy and physiology by Blalock and his young research fellow, Dr. Joseph Beard, Thomas rapidly mastered complex surgical techniques and research methodology. He and Blalock developed great respect for one another, forging such a close working relationship that they came to operate almost as a single mind. Outside the lab environment, however, they maintained the social distance dictated by the mores of the times. In an era when institutional racism was the norm, Thomas was classified, and paid, as a janitor, despite the fact that by the mid 1930s he was doing the work of a postdoctoral researcher in Blalock's lab. A postdoctoral appointment (colloquially, a post-doc) is a temporary research position held by a person who has completed his or her doctoral studies. ...


Working at Johns Hopkins

By 1940, the work Blalock had done with Thomas placed him at the forefront of American surgery, and when he was offered the position of Chief of Surgery at his alma mater, Johns Hopkins in 1941, he requested that Thomas accompany him. Thomas arrived in Baltimore with his wife, Clara, and their young child in June of that year, confronting a severe housing shortage and a level of racism worse than they had endured in Nashville. Hopkins, like the rest of the city of Baltimore, was rigidly segregated, and the only black employees at the institution were janitors. When Thomas walked the halls in his white lab coat, heads turned.


Unrecognized accomplishments

Thomas trained others in the Blue Baby procedure, as well as in a number of other cardiac techniques, including one he developed in 1946 for improving circulation in patients whose great vessels (the aorta and the pulmonary artery) were transposed. A complex operation called an atrial septectomy, the procedure was executed so flawlessly by Thomas that Blalock, upon examining the nearly undetectable suture line, was prompted to remark, "Vivien, this looks like something the Lord made." Year 1946 (MCMXLVI) was a common year starting on Tuesday. ... The aorta (generally pronounced or ay-orta) is the largest artery in the human body, originating from the left ventricle of the heart and bringing oxygenated blood to all parts of the body in the systemic circulation. ... The pulmonary arteries carry blood from the heart to the lungs. ...


Late recognition

To the host of young surgeons Thomas trained during the 1940's, he became a figure of legend, the model of the dexterous and efficient cutting surgeon. "Even if you'd never seen surgery before, you could do it because Vivien made it look so simple," the renowned surgeon Denton Cooley told Washingtonian magazine in 1989. "There wasn't a false move, not a wasted motion, when he operated." Surgeons like Cooley, along with Alex Haller, Frank Spencer, Rowena Spencer, and others credited Thomas with teaching them the surgical technique which placed them at the forefront of medicine in the United States. Despite the deep respect Thomas was accorded by these surgeons and by the many black lab technicians he trained at Hopkins, he was not well paid. He sometimes resorted to working as a bartender, often at Blalock's parties. This led to the peculiar circumstance of his serving drinks to people he had been teaching earlier in the day. Eventually, after negotiations in his behalf by Blalock, he became the highest paid technician at Johns Hopkins by 1946, and by far the highest paid African-American on the institution's rolls. Dr. Denton A. Cooley (b. ... The Washingtonians were a temperance group from early in the history of the United States. ... 1989 (MCMLXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view. ... Year 1946 (MCMXLVI) was a common year starting on Tuesday. ...


Although Thomas never wrote or spoke publicly about his ongoing desire to return to college and obtain a medical degree, his widow, the late Clara Flanders Thomas, revealed in a 1987 interview with Washingtonian writer Katie McCabe that her husband had clung to the possibility of further education throughout the Blue Baby period and had only abandoned the idea with great reluctance. Mrs. Thomas stated that in 1947, Thomas had investigated the possibility of enrolling in college and pursuing his dream of becoming a doctor, but had been deterred by the inflexibility of Morgan State University, which refused to grant him credit for life experience and insisted that he fulfill the standard freshman requirements. Realizing that he would be 50 years old by the time he completed college and medical school, he decided to give up the idea of further education. 1987 (MCMLXXXVII) was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... The Washingtonians were a temperance group from early in the history of the United States. ... Year 1947 (MCMXLVII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (the link is to a full 1947 calendar). ... Morgan State University, located in residential Baltimore, Maryland, awards Baccalaureate, Masters and Doctorate degrees. ...


Relations with Blalock

Throughout Thomas' 34-year partnership with Blalock, the white surgeon's approach to the issue of Thomas's race was complicated and contradictory. On one hand, he defended his choice of Thomas to his superiors at Vanderbilt and to Hopkins colleagues as well, and he insisted that Thomas accompany him in the operating room during the first series of tetralogy operations. On the other hand, there were limits to his tolerance, especially when it came to issues of pay, academic acknowledgement, and social interaction outside of work.


After Blalock's death in 1964 at the age of 65, Thomas stayed at Hopkins for 15 more years. In his role as Director of Surgical Research Laboratories, he mentored a number of African American lab technicians as well as Hopkins' first black cardiac resident, Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr., whom Thomas assisted with his groundbreaking work in the use of the Automatic Implantable Defibrillator. 1964 (MCMLXIV) was a leap year starting on Wednesday (the link is to a full 1964 calendar). ... A semi-automatic external defibrillator (AED) A defibrillator is a medical device used in the defibrillation of the heart. ...


Institutional acknowledgment

In 1968?, the surgeons Thomas trained—all by this time chiefs of surgical departments around the country—commissioned the painting of his portrait (by Bob Gee, oil on canvas, 1969, The Johns Hopkins Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives) and arranged to have it hung next to Blalock's in the lobby of the Alfred Blalock Clinical Sciences Building. In 1976, Johns Hopkins University presented Thomas with an honorary doctorate. However, because of certain restrictions, he received an Honorary Doctor of Laws, rather than a medical doctorate. Thomas was also appointed to the faculty of Johns Hopkins Medical School as Instructor of Surgery. 1976 (MCMLXXVI) was a leap year starting on Thursday. ... Doctor of Laws (Latin: Legum Doctor, LL.D) is a doctorate-level academic degree in law. ...


Following his retirement in 1979, Thomas began work on an autobiography, Partners of the Heart: Vivien Thomas and his Work with Alfred Blalock, ISBN 0-8122-1634-2. He died in November 1985, at age 75, and the book was published just days later. Having learned of Thomas on the day of his death, Washingtonian writer Katie McCabe brought his story to public attention for the first time in a 1989 article entitled "Like Something the Lord Made," which became the basis for the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning 2004 HBO film Something the Lord Made. For the song by The Smashing Pumpkins, see 1979 (song). ... Cover of An autobiography, from the Greek auton, self, bios, life and graphein, write, is a biography written by the subject or composed conjointly with a collaborative writer (styled as told to or with). The term dates from the late eighteenth century, but the form is much older. ... 1985 (MCMLXXXV) was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... The Washingtonians were a temperance group from early in the history of the United States. ... An Emmy Award. ... The George Foster Peabody Awards, more commonly referred to as the Peabody Awards, are annual international awards given for excellence in radio and television broadcasting and cable television. ... 2004 (MMIV) was a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... For other uses, see HBO (disambiguation). ... SOMETHING THE LORD MADE is a moving story of men who defy the rules and start a medical revolution. ...


Legacy

Vivien Thomas' legacy as an educator and scientist continues today through the Vivien Thomas Fund for Diversity, established in 2004 by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine for the purpose of increasing minority enrollment at the institution, and the Vivien Thomas Young Investigator Awards, given by the Council on Cardiovascular Surgery and Anaesthesiology beginning in 1996. The Vivien Thomas Scholarship Fund for Medical Science and Research, funded in 2003 by GlaxoSmithKline and administered by the Congressional Black Caucus, provides scholarships to students pursuing graduate education in medicine and science. In 2005, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine honored Vivien Thomas by naming one of its four colleges after him. 2004 (MMIV) was a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... 1996 (MCMXCVI) was a leap year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar, and was designated the International Year for the Eradication of Poverty. ... 2003 (MMIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... GlaxoSmithKline plc (LSE: GSK NYSE: GSK) is a British based pharmaceutical, biologicals, and healthcare company. ... The Congressional Black Caucus is an organization representing African American members of the Congress of the United States. ... 2005 (MMV) was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar. ...


References

  • (1985) Partners of the Heart: Vivien Thomas and His Work with Alfred Blalock (originally published as Pioneering Research in Surgical Shock and Cadiovascular Surgery: Vivien Thomas and His Work with Alfred Blalock), U. Penn. Press.
  • (1989) "Like Something the Lord Made," by Katie McCabe. The Washingtonian Magazine, August 1989. Reprinted in Feature Writing for Newspapers and Magazines: The Pursuit of Excellence, ed. by Jay Friedlander and John Lee. May also be accessed by going to the film's web site, below.
  • (2003). Partners of the Heart. American Experience.
  • (2003) Stefan Timmermans, "A Black Technician and Blue Babies" in Social Studies of Science 33:2 (April 2003), 197–229.

  Results from FactBites:
 
Surgical Technician, Vivien T. Thomas (285 words)
Vivien T. Thomas was a key player in pioneering the anastomosis of the subclavian artery to the pulmonary artery.The surgical work he performed with Alfred Blalock paved the way for the successful outcome of the Blalock-Taussig shunt.
Vivien Thomas learned to perform the surgical operations and chemical determinations needed for their experiments, to calculate the results, and to keep precise records; he remained an invaluable associate throughout Blalock's career.
Thomas supervised the surgical laboratories at Hopkins for over 35 years, and in 1976 he was appointed instructor in surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Vivien Thomas Information (1155 words)
Thomas had hoped to go to college and study to become a doctor, but the Great Depression wiped out the savings he had collected as a carpenter.
Thomas was happy to get his new job, but found that it only paid two thirds of his previous position's salary.
Thomas was set on the task of first creating a blue baby-like condition in a dog, then correcting the condition with the new artery.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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