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Reply #67: Vivien Thomas, surgical pioneer (1910-1985) [View All]

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Brewman_Jax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-08-07 03:14 PM
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67. Vivien Thomas, surgical pioneer (1910-1985)
http://www.medicalarchives.jhmi.edu/vthomas.htm
http://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/biolib/hc/biopages/vthomas...

Vivien T. Thomas was a surgical technician and Supervisor of Surgical Research Laboratories at Johns-Hopkins. He 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 in the 1940's. He did the main body of research and designing of the procedure, but the virulent racism of the time shut him out of both professional and financial recognition.

In 1929, as he was preparing for college and medical school, Thomas lost his entire savings when a Nashville bank failed. With no financial support for a college education, he took a job as a laboratory technician at Vanderbilt University Medical School, working for Dr. Alfred Blalock. He started out working for Alfred Blalock, MD, in his lab at Vanderbilt University. After beginning work at Vanderbilt, Thomas still hoped to save money for his own medical degree, but the Depression worsened and the research with Blalock grew. Soon Thomas was working 16 hours a day in the laboratory, performing operations on animals that would advance Blalock's studies of high blood pressure and traumatic shock. For this work, Thomas invented a heavy spring device that could apply varying levels of pressure. Their work at Vanderbilt created a new understanding of shock, showing that shock was linked to a loss of fluid and blood volume.

In 1941, when Blalock left Vanderbilt to become Chief of Surgery at Johns Hopkins, he insisted that Vivien Thomas be hired to join his team there. At Hopkins, Thomas, Blalock, and Helen Taussig pioneered the field of heart surgery with a procedure to alleviate a congenital heart defect, the Tetralogy of Fallot, also known as blue baby syndrome. Sufferers faced brutally short life expectancies. Working with cardiologist Helen Taussig, Blalock and Thomas developed an operation that would deliver more oxygen to the blood and relieve the constriction caused by the heart defect. Thomas tested the procedure---a refinement of one that they had created in laboratory dogs---to make sure it would work. In 1944, with Thomas advising Blalock, the first "blue baby" operation was successfully performed on a 15-month old child. Vivien was a key partner in hundreds of "blue baby" operations, performing pre- and post-operation procedures on the patients as well as advising in the operating room. At the same time, he continued to manage Blalock's ongoing laboratory research. He also taught a generation of surgeons and lab technicians.

After 37 years, Thomas was appointed to the faculty at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Leaving an indelible mark, he became instructor emeritus of surgery. At age 75, Dr. Vivien Thomas died in Baltimore.

A note about the stunning irony of those times. Though earning low wages, Thomas performed and guided surgeries, designed instruments needed to perform surgery on blue babies, did innovative work on the defibrillator, and taught surgical techniques to surgeons. He also moonlighted as a bartender to support his family. In 1960, Blalock celebrated his 60th birthday, and while 500 people attended, Thomas, a colleague for over 30 years, was not invited--which would never have happened had Thomas not been black.


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  - Holy crap.  Number23   Jul-08-09 04:59 PM   #178 
  - I see Ivy Leagues, are present...  bliss_eternal   Jul-23-09 02:21 AM   #188 
  - Corporate collusion  Brewman_Jax   Jul-27-10 02:05 PM   #221 
  - Emory University in Atlanta issues its declaration of regret for slavery involvement  Brewman_Jax   Feb-02-11 08:12 AM   #232 
  - Good thread.  BlooInBloo   Jul-09-09 12:16 AM   #180 
  - Black Indians and Black Cowboys in the Old West  Liberation Angel   Jul-23-09 12:20 AM   #185 
  - Africans in the New World Before Columbus (Malian sailors in 1300's)  Liberation Angel   Jul-23-09 12:23 AM   #186 
  - Eugene Bullard. WWI Flying and fighter ace pilot  Liberation Angel   Jul-23-09 12:24 AM   #187 
  - Great stuff, L_A! Thanks for posting.  Number23   Jul-23-09 03:48 AM   #189 
     - Y'welcome!  Liberation Angel   Jul-23-09 09:55 AM   #190 
  - Black GI's Liberated Nazi death Camps during Holocaust and died in Nazi death camps too  Liberation Angel   Jul-23-09 08:18 PM   #191 
  - bttt.  Karenina   Aug-03-09 02:44 PM   #192 
  - Blue_Tires article on the Buffalo Soldiers would be a good fit here  Number23   Aug-18-09 04:45 PM   #193 
  - Prince Hall, a "founding father of America" and the first Black American Citizens  cato287   Sep-19-09 10:29 AM   #194 
  - The Red Summer Riots  Brewman_Jax   Oct-15-09 10:25 AM   #195 
  - Shirley Franklin (1945- ), Mayor of Atlanta  Brewman_Jax   Jan-02-10 09:56 AM   #196 
  - Brew, thank you for keeping this thread open and for contributing (and allowing others to as well).  Number23   Jan-02-10 04:34 PM   #197 
  - Wyoming's "Black 14" and the mormon church's policies on race  fishwax   Jan-07-10 09:34 PM   #198 
  - Story: The other night our sat teevee was down  EFerrari   Jan-10-10 02:37 PM   #199 
  - "She's 77 and was a radical Latina back in the day."  Number23   Jan-10-10 05:44 PM   #202 
     - Why, thank you very much.  EFerrari   Jan-10-10 10:00 PM   #205 
  - Wow  TheBigotBasher   Jan-10-10 04:07 PM   #200 
  - I'm glad you're here. And your participation is welcome in this forum  Number23   Jan-10-10 05:37 PM   #201 
     - I'm looking forward to.  TheBigotBasher   Jan-10-10 05:56 PM   #203 
  - Percy E. Sutton (1920-2009)  Number23   Jan-10-10 05:58 PM   #204 
  - Desegregation of the US Military  Brewman_Jax   Feb-04-10 08:52 AM   #207 
  - When my Mom first told me  NOLALady   Feb-04-10 01:16 PM   #208 
  - Amelia Boynton Robinson first African American woman from Alabama to run for Congress  Blue_Tires   Feb-04-10 01:34 PM   #209 
  - Garvey and Griggs  RoyGBiv   Feb-06-10 11:07 PM   #211 
  - Feb. 2010 - Greensboro, NC sit-ins turn 50  Number23   Feb-09-10 03:09 PM   #212 
  - David Levering Lewis - first author to win two Pulitzer Prizes for biography for back-to-back volume  Number23   Feb-09-10 03:12 PM   #213 
  - The Myth of the Negro Past, a monograph by Melville J. Herskovitz (1941)  EFerrari   Feb-10-10 02:29 AM   #214 
  - Black Men Built the Capitol. (BookTv presentation)  EFerrari   Mar-02-10 03:10 AM   #215 
  - Two interviews, MLK and Malcolm, on line at PBS.  EFerrari   Mar-11-10 08:07 PM   #216 
  - The Sweet Trials, 1925 and 1926  Brewman_Jax   May-17-10 08:47 AM   #218 
  - Darrell Wallace makes history as first African-American to win NASCAR Pro Series  Blue_Tires   May-18-10 11:38 PM   #219 
  - Ralph Gilles, President and CEO of Dodge  Blue_Tires   Jun-08-10 09:00 AM   #220 
  - Reverend Vernon Johns (1892-1965)  Brewman_Jax   Oct-14-10 10:31 AM   #222 
  - Hands on the Freedom Plow  EFerrari   Oct-26-10 04:20 PM   #223 
  - Va Tech to honor school's first black graduate  fortyfeetunder   Oct-28-10 11:00 PM   #224 
  - this was no small accomplishment...  bliss_eternal   Nov-05-10 04:48 AM   #225 
  - Juliette Hampton Morgan (1917-1957)  Brewman_Jax   Jan-20-11 10:51 AM   #229 
  - Black-American winners of the Nobel Prize  Brewman_Jax   Feb-09-11 01:56 PM   #233 
  - The immortal legacy of Henrietta Lacks  Brewman_Jax   Mar-15-11 09:55 AM   #234 
  - Mass deportations of Mexican-Americans in the 1930's  Brewman_Jax   Jun-27-11 11:34 AM   #235 
 

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