Eventually, after negotiations on his behalf by Blalock, he became the highest paid assistant at Johns Hopkins by 1946, and by far the highest paid African-American on the institution's rolls. Through hundreds of experiments, Blalock wondered and Thomas found out, until in 1933 Blalock was ready to challenge the medical establishment with his first “named lecture.”. In 1943, while pursuing his shock research, Blalock was approached by pediatric cardiologist Helen Taussig,[23] who was seeking a surgical solution to a complex and fatal four-part heart anomaly called tetralogy of Fallot (also known as blue baby syndrome, although other cardiac anomalies produce blueness, or cyanosis). If Blalock began a suture in the wrong direction, Thomas’s voice would come quietly over his shoulder: “The other direction. And no other scientist had a Vivien Thomas. From the very beginning, there was this deeper bond between us: I knew that he had been where I had been, and I had been where he could not go.”, Both men were aware that their differences ran deep: Watkins, whose exposure to the early civil-rights movement as a parishioner of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. had taught him to be “out front and vocal about minority participation”; and Thomas, whose upbringing in Louisiana and Tennessee in the early years of the century had taught him the opposite. He and Thomas were a package deal, Blalock told the hospital. 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. Enjoy this article about Vivien Thomas? Within the lab, they functioned almost as a single mind, as Thomas’s deft hands turned Blalock’s ideas into elegant and detailed experiments. [30] Newsreels touted the event, greatly enhancing the status of Johns Hopkins and solidifying the reputation of Blalock, who had been regarded as a maverick up until that point by some in the Hopkins old guard. “Dr. Vivien Thomas and Denton Cooley both arrived at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1940— Cooley to begin work on his medical degree, Thomas to run the hospital’s surgical lab under Dr. Alfred Blalock. . After that, “nothing more was ever said about the matter,” Thomas recalled. To the black technicians he trained—twenty of them over three decades—he was “Mr. When Blalock exposed the pulmonary artery, then the subclavian—the two “pipes” he planned to reconnect— he turned to Thomas. Thomas knew the famous Blue Baby doctor the world could not see: a profoundly conscientious surgeon, devastated by patient mortality and keenly aware of his own limitations. Eaton trained in orthopedics and is now the team doctor for the Tampa Bay Rays. Sidelined by deteriorating health, Blalock decided in the early 1950s that cardiac surgery was a young man’s field, so he turned over the development of the heart-lung machine to two of his superstars, Drs. [13] Thomas was classified and paid as a janitor,[14] despite the fact that by the mid-1930s, he was doing the work of a postdoctoral researcher in the lab. Thomas had doubts of his own as he walked down Hopkins’s dimly lit corridors, eyed the peeling green paint and bare concrete floors, and breathed in the odors of the ancient, unventilated structure that was to be his workplace: the Old Hunterian Laboratory. . . But in the medical world of the 1940s that chose and trained men like Denton Cooley, there wasn’t supposed to be a place for a black man, with or without a degree. [21] Hopkins, like the rest of Baltimore, was rigidly segregated, and the only black employees at the institution were janitors. Vivien Thomas 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 … … You could also do it yourself at any point in time. He remembers how that baby went from blue to pink the minute Dr. Blalock removed the clamps and her arteries began to function. Dr. Blalock.”. “I don’t know what will happen if I leave Hopkins, but I know what will happen if I stay. Vivien’s older brother, Harold, had been a school teacher in Nashville. Legacy. Thomas, always his own man, replied, “I will consider it.”. [44] He died of pancreatic cancer on November 26, 1985, and the book was published just days later. In 1950, six years after he and Blalock had stood together for Blue Baby One, Blalock operated on Blue Baby 1,000. Thousands of DC Twentysomethings Live in Group Houses. Always one for gentle statements, Thomas celebrated the changing times on the last page of his book: Thomas is shown standing proudly next to Levi Watkins and a third-year medical student named Reginald Davis, who is holding his infant son. Find a Grave, database and images ( https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 28 December 2020 ), memorial page for Vivien Theodore Thomas (29 Aug 1910–25 Nov 1985), Find a Grave Memorial no. Born October 5, 1920, in Johnson City, So Thomas ordered his surgical supplies, cleaned and painted the lab, put on his white coat, and settled down to work. Following his retirement in 1979, Thomas began work on an autobiography, Pioneering Research in Surgical Shock and Cardiovascular Surgery: Vivien Thomas and His Work with Alfred Blalock. There was silence. It is to her that the book is dedicated, and it was in her arms that he died, 52 years after their marriage. This was the only evidence that an incision had been made in the heart. Had Blalock not believed in Thomas’s lab results with the tetralogy operation, he would never have dared to open Eileen Saxon’s chest. Overnight, the tetralogy operation moved from the lab to the operating room. [29], On November 29, 1944, the procedure was first tried on an eighteen-month-old infant named Eileen Saxon. Two days before Christmas 1946, Blalock came to Thomas in the empty lab with Hopkins’s final salary offer, negotiated by Blalock and approved by the board of trustees that morning. Suture silk for human arteries didn’t exist, so they made do with the silk Thomas had used in the lab—as well as the lab’s clamps, forceps, and right-angle nerve hook. Thomas and Blalock did groundbreaking research into the causes of hemorrhagic[15] and traumatic shock. . Haller, I was very much impressed with the way you handled yourself there.’ Feeling overly proud of myself, I said to Casper, ‘Well, I trained with Dr. Blalock.’, “A few weeks later, we were operating together in the lab for a second time, and we got into even worse trouble. But as a black man doing highly technical research, he had never really fit into the system—a reality that became painfully clear when in a salary discussion with a black coworker, Thomas discovered that Vanderbilt classified him as a janitor. So was his policy on Vivien Thomas, Blalock politely replied. Those are the facts that Cooley has laid out, as swiftly and efficiently as he operates. By 1935, a handful of other scientists had begun to rethink the physiology of shock, but no one besides Blalock had attacked the problem from so many angles. Dr. Blalock sounded off like a child throwing a temper tantrum. In his role as director of Surgical Research Laboratories, he mentored a number of African-American lab assistants as well as Hopkins' first black cardiac resident, Levi Watkins, Jr., whom Thomas assisted with his groundbreaking work in the use of the automatic implantable defibrillator. As surgeon-in-chief there, he could run his own department, train his own men, expand his research. . He says he’s on his way to do a “tet case” right now. If neither Hopkins nor Thomas would bend, Blalock would have to find another way to solve the problem. On the other hand, there were limits to his tolerance, especially when it came to issues of pay, academic acknowledgment, and his social interaction outside of work. Education:Attended Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College. [34] 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". Blalock took care of patients, Thomas took care of research. “Yes, if not too long,” the reply came. In fall 2004, the Baltimore City Public School System opened the Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy. If he were drafted, it would be to his advantage to be at Hopkins, Thomas decided, because he would probably be placed with a medical unit. Still, Vivien Thomas made a place for himself. No one else had compiled such a mass of data on hemorrhagic and traumatic shock. Neither one was to cross that line. Blalock was not wealthy, but he had an ally at Hopkins, world-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Walter Dandy, who was known for his generosity. [40] 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. At the slightest movement of light or fan, Blalock would yell at top voice, at which point his orderly would readjust both. [3] 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. In and out of the arteries flashed the straight half-inch needle that Thomas had cut and sharpened. Would you like Wikipedia to always look as professional and up-to-date? A / initial anastomosis - B / modified anastomosis. What neither Blalock nor Thomas could see as they parted company in June 1964 in the seventh-floor hallway of the Blalock Building was the rich recognition that would come to Thomas with the changing times. “Maybe she could get a job to help out.”, Thomas bristled. On Friday afternoons, Thomas opened the Old Hunterian to the pet owners of Baltimore and presided over an afternoon clinic, gaining as much prestige in the veterinary community as he enjoyed within the medical school. Yet he was full of questions about the experiment in progress, eager to learn not just “what” but “why” and “how.” Instinctively, Blalock responded to that curiosity, describing his experiment as he showed Thomas around the lab. Abstract. Vivien was a trailblazer by his work.”. Vivien was 75 years old at the time of death. . Clara Thomas turns to the last page of the book, to a picture of Vivien standing with two young men, one a medical student, the other a cardiac surgeon. Besides, he had brought a colored man up from Vanderbilt to run his lab. After having worked there for 37 years, Thomas was also finally appointed to the faculty of the School of Medicine as Instructor of Surgery. The book was the last work of Vivien Thomas’s life, and probably the most difficult. This is about Vivien Thomas. For the first time in 41 years, Thomas stood at center stage, feeling “quite humble,” he said, “but at the same time, just a little bit proud.” He rose to thank the distinguished gathering, his smiling presence contrasting with the serious, bespectacled Vivien Thomas in the portrait. Blalock and Thomas knew the social codes and traditions of the Old South. On the one hand, he defended his choice of Thomas to his superiors at Vanderbilt and to Hopkins colleagues, and he insisted that Thomas accompany him in the operating room during the first series of tetralogy operations. After Blalock's death from cancer in 1964 at the age of 65,[42] Thomas stayed at Hopkins for 15 more years. And he never lost his sense of humor. Vivien Thomas (1910-1985) was an African-American scientist, pioneer, and renowned educator. He was married to Clara Beatrice Flanders. Thomas excelled. We were operating together on one occasion, and we got into trouble with some massive bleeding in a pulmonary artery, which I was able to handle fairly well. So complex was the four-part anomaly of Fallot’s tetralogy that Thomas thought it possible to reproduce only two of the defects, at most. Vivien Thomas, who never earned a medical degree, died in Baltimore, Maryland at the age of 75. This Group Is Giving Out-of-Work Fitness Instructors a Way to Host Safe Workout Classes Outdoors. He was instrumental in the development of the “blue baby” operation in 1944, with surgeon Alfred Blalock and pediatric cardiologist Helen Taussig. [16] This work later evolved into research on crush syndrome[17] and saved the lives of thousands of soldiers on the battlefields of World War II. In July 2005, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine began the practice of splitting incoming first-year students into four colleges, each named for famous Hopkins faculty members who had major impacts on the history of medicine. It was the admiration and affection of the men he trained that Thomas valued most. He was concerned with my being too political and antagonizing the people I had to work with. Finally, off came the bulldog clamps that had stopped the flow of blood during the operation. He began writing just after his retirement in 1979, working through his illness with pancreatic cancer, indexing the book from his hospital bed following surgery, and putting it to rest, just before his death, with a 1985 copyright date. The procedure we were doing would ordinarily have taken an hour, but it had taken us six or seven hours, on this one dog that had been asleep all that time. Thomas had surprised The Professor with an operation he had conceived, then kept secret until healing was completed. In 1976 Hopkins awarded him an honorary doctorate and named him an instructor of surgery for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He had spent all morning fixing a piece of worn flooring in one of the faculty houses. Several days later the foreman said to me, ‘Thomas, you could have fixed that floor right in the first place.’ I knew that I had already learned the lesson which I still remember and try to adhere to: Whatever you do, always do your best. His reply was, ‘No, don’t.’ I watched as with an almost 45-degree stoop and obviously in pain, he slowly disappeared through the exit.”. Indoor Workout Classes Are Now Banned in DC. She could only take a few steps before beginning to breathe heavily. [27] Blalock was impressed with Thomas's work; when he inspected the procedure performed on Anna, he reportedly said, "This looks like something the Lord made. [32] The three cases formed the basis for the article that was published in the May 1945 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, giving credit to Blalock and Taussig for the procedure. Post his death, various awards and scholarships were given in his name to deserving people, such as the Vivien Thomas Young Investigator Awards that was started in 1996. But the young man who read chemistry and physiology textbooks by day and monitored experiments by night was doing more than surviving. As the hectic pace of the late ’40s slowed in the early ’50s, the hurried noon visits and evening phone conversations gave way to long, relaxed exchanges through the open door between lab and office. “I don’t think I’ll go,” he had said to chemistry technician Clara Belle Puryear the previous afternoon. When the call came to return to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins, as surgeon-in-chief, he was able to make a deal on his own terms, and it included Thomas. When they confronted discrimination again, they confronted it together. According to the accounts in Thomas's 1985 autobiography and in a 1967 interview with medical historian Peter Olch, Taussig suggested only that it might be possible to "reconnect the pipes"[24] in some way to increase the level of blood flow to the lungs but did not suggest how this could be accomplished. Clara Thomas speaks proudly of her husband’s accomplishments, and matter-of-factly about the recognition that came late in his career. He tells the Blue Baby story so matter-of-factly that you forget he’s outlining the beginning of cardiac surgery. that for the type of work I was doing, I felt I should be . Blalock and Thomas realized immediately that the answer lay in a procedure they had perfected for a different purpose in their Vanderbilt work, involving the anastomosis (joining) of the subclavian artery to the pulmonary artery, which had the effect of increasing blood flow to the lungs. “I remember one time,” says Haller, “when I was a medical student, I was working on a research project with a senior surgical resident who was a very slow operator. “Internal healing of the incision was without flaw. What passed from Thomas’s hands to the surgical residents who would come to be known as “the Old Hands” was vascular surgery in the making—much of it of Thomas’s making. Through a friend who worked at Vanderbilt University, Thomas learned of an opening as a laboratory assistant for a young doctor named Alfred Blalock—who was, in his friend’s words, “hell to get along with.” Thomas decided to take a chance, and on February 10, 1930, he walked into Blalock’s animal lab. 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