African American History | Dr. Vivien Thomas

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Wiki :  Vivien Theodore Thomas (August 29, 1910 – November 26, 1985) was an African-American surgical technician who developed the procedures used to treat blue baby syndrome in the 1940s. He was an assistant to surgeon Alfred Blalock in Blalock’s experimental animal laboratory 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 of operative techniques to many of the country’s most prominent surgeons. Vivien Thomas was the first African American without a doctorate degree to perform open heart surgery on a white patient in the United States.

Vivien Thomas
‘Technician’ helped Dr. Alfred Blalock and Dr. Helen Taussig develop the ‘blue baby’ operation at Johns Hopkins


Doctors’ fame

Three years later, Blalock and Dr. Helen Taussig earned international acclaim for their “blue baby” operation on a 14-month-old girl, while Thomas’ accomplishments at the time went unoticed. However, the success of the procedure could not have been accomplished without his research and operating-room expertise.

Present throughout the history-making surgery, he was able to advise both Blalock and Taussig because he had performed the same operation, which bypasses constricted vessels leading from the heart, more than 300 times on dogs.

He had worked with them, side by side, in the development of the surgical procedure that eventually corrected the heart defect known as tetralogy of Fallot, or “blue-baby syndrome.” Read on

You can watch the HBO movie titled “Something the Lord Made” Parts- 1-12 which tells the story of Dr. Vivien Thomas at the link below.

Stellar Night at the Movies
Something a Partnership Made: Medical History
By Cynthia Delgado

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8 Responses to African American History | Dr. Vivien Thomas

  1. Ametia says:

    Hi Jueseppi; always good to see you. This subject is near and dear to my heart. Black folks have contributed phenomenal acheivements in every aspect of America. We know what it takes to not only survive, but thrive. Our HEALTH & WEALTH, and SPIRITUAL selves assure we connect, breath, move, and have our beingness in this ASH CAN of the universe called earth. LOL

  2. Ametia,

    This is awesome! Good stuff, Chica! Thank you for this!

    • Ametia says:

      FYI: I was born in Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1955. I was a “Blue Baby.” And I benefitted from the techniques Dr. Vivien Thomas developed!

      • Whoa!!!!!!!!!!

        Absolutely wonderful. So glad you benefitted from this technique and that I got a chance to know such a fine woman. I love reading about the great accomplishments of our people. Thank God for his amazing grace.

        • Ametia says:

          Yes; I’m a twin. I came first. In the 50’s our country hospital did not deliver twins, so all southern Maryland multiple birth pregancies were allocated to Johns Hopkins. My twin sister died 23 years ago, though not from birth complications. God’s Grace is truly Amazing!

      • I’m sure your sister was a fine woman just as you are. May her soul rest in peace. I had older twin brothers and multiple births were a big deal back then in the community. But they were delivered by midwife. :)

  3. Ametia, I loved, loved, loved seeing that HBO special “Something the Lord Made.” Maybe someone like Spike Lee or George Lucas could do a wide screen version of the story. The true story has everything…action, romance, mystery, heroism, etc.

    • Ametia says:

      Hi NCW. I saw the HBO special too. It was so awe-inspiring. Mos Def shone in this adaptation of Vivien Thomas’ life and works. This movie truly had it ALL.

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