Education:Attended Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College. They understood the line between life inside the lab, where they could drink together in 1930, and life outside, where they could not. Would you like Wikipedia to always look as professional and up-to-date? The test of their partnership was not long in coming. This was the only evidence that an incision had been made in the heart.  He worked at Vanderbilt University in the summer of 1929 doing carpentry but was laid off in the fall. He apologized, saying he had lost his temper, that he would watch his language, and he asked me to go back to work.”, From that day on, said Thomas, “neither one of us ever hesitated to tell the other, in a straightforward, man-to-man manner, what he thought or how he felt. . There’s no point in my beating myself out with them around. No, Vivien Thomas wasn’t a doctor, says Cooley. that for the type of work I was doing, I felt I should be . 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. The well-spoken young man who sat on the lab stool politely responding to Blalock’s questions had never been in a laboratory before. There wasn’t a false move, not a wasted motion, when he operated.”.  Thomas performed the operation hundreds of times on a dog, whereas Blalock only once as Thomas' assistant. What he was doing was entirely new to the two other Hopkins lab technicians, who were expected just to set up experiments for the medical investigators to carry out. Vivien T. Thomas, who was born in New Iberia, La., and raised in Nashville, Tenn., had hoped one day to become a surgeon. Today, in heavy gilt frames, those two men silently look at each other from opposite walls of the Blalock Building, just as one morning 40 years ago they stood in silence at Hopkins. For 34 years they were a remarkable combination: Blalock the scientist, asking the questions; Thomas the pragmatist, figuring out the simplest way to get the answers. He only had a high school education, but he did not let racism, poverty, or lack of schooling stop him from attaining great competence in the field of cardiac surgery. But more than science passed from man to man over fourteen years. Vivien T. Thomas was born in New Iberia, Louisiana in 1910, the son of a carpenter. When Thomas walked the halls in his white lab coat, many heads turned. Blalock took care of patients, Thomas took care of research. Blalock told Thomas to "come in and put the animal to sleep and get it set up". But Thomas had not come the whole way. After his patients, nothing mattered more to Blalock than his research and his “boys,” as he called his residents. Eaton trained in orthopedics and is now the team doctor for the Tampa Bay Rays. He wasn’t even a college graduate. If neither Hopkins nor Thomas would bend, Blalock would have to find another way to solve the problem. Why did the famous doctor keep turning to him for advice? After 37 years, Thomas was appointed to the faculty at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. .  On his first day of work, Thomas assisted Blalock with a surgical experiment on a dog. was a supervisor of surgical laboratories and an instructor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. By 1932, Thomas had made his peace. More People Are Getting Eyelifts and Botox Because We’re All Wearing Masks, Fitness Diary: Fox News White House Correspondent John Roberts. In his four years with Blalock, Thomas had assumed the role of a senior research fellow, with neither a PhD nor an MD. Thomas hadn’t gone to college, let alone medical school, but through their pioneering work together, the two men essentially invented cardiac surgery. Thomas, surprised that his portrait had been painted at all, said he was “astounded” by its placement. This led to the peculiar circumstance of his serving drinks to people he had been teaching earlier in the day. “Perhaps you could discuss the problem with your wife,” Blalock suggested. You handled your hands beautifully, too.’, “He looked me in the eye and said, ‘I trained with Vivien.’ ”. When they confronted discrimination again, they confronted it together. The harmony between the idea man and the detail man never faltered. For the 29-year-old Thomas and his family, it meant leaving the home they had built in Nashville for a strange city and an uncertain future. Nobody knew how to do this.”. Vivien Thomas, who never earned a medical degree, died in Baltimore, Maryland at the age of 75. And no other scientist had a Vivien Thomas. And he never lost his sense of humor. 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. For $12 a week, with no overtime pay for sixteen-hour days and no prospect of advancement or recognition, another man might have survived. “Dr. In an extensive 1967 interview with medical historian Dr. Peter Olch, we meet the warm, wry Vivien Thomas who remains hidden behind the formal, scientific prose of his autobiography. “It was my first research project when I joined the medical faculty, and Vivien’s last.” Only months after Thomas’s retirement in 1979, Watkins performed the first human implantation of the AID, winning a place in the long line of Hopkins cardiac pioneers. (1989) McCabe Katie,"Like Something the Lord Made",. For once, it wasn’t Blalock who asked the question that started it all. As close as Blalock was to his protégés, they moved on. I was the only one in the lab, except for Casper. To install click the Add extension button. The two bided their time, teaching themselves vascular surgery in experiments in which they attempted to produce pulmonary hypertension in dogs. I can tell you put it in.’ Without another word, he turned and left. 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. “Seeing that he was unable to stand erect,” Thomas recalled later, “I asked if he wanted me to accompany him to the front of the hospital. A colored man who wasn’t even a doctor. The profanity he used would have made the proverbial sailor proud of him. Datasets available include LCSH, BIBFRAME, LC Name Authorities, LC Classification, MARC codes, PREMIS vocabularies, ISO language codes, and more. We examined the outside of the heart and found the suture line with most of the silk still intact. “I turned to him and said, ‘I certainly appreciated the way you solved that problem. Henry Bahnson and Frank Spencer. In the evenings, with Thomas’s notes at one elbow and a glass of bourbon at the other, Blalock would phone Thomas from his study as he worked on scientific papers late into the night. Vivien Thomas surprised Johns Hopkins. If Blalock began a suture in the wrong direction, Thomas’s voice would come quietly over his shoulder: “The other direction. Almost overnight, Operating Room 706 became “the heart room,” as dozens of Blue Babies and their parents came to Hopkins from all over the United States, then from abroad, spilling over into rooms on six floors of the hospital. “I intend for my wife to take care of our children,” he told Blalock, “and I think I have the capability to let her do so—except I may have the wrong job.”. I must have looked white as a ghost, because when he came over with the I-V needle, he sat down at my foot, tugged at my pants leg, and said, ‘Which leg shall I start the fluid in, Dr. Haller?’ ”, The man who tugged at Haller’s pants leg administered one of the country’s most sophisticated surgical research programs. The hospital’s policy against hiring blacks was inflexible. . One after another, cyanotic children who had never been able to sit upright began standing at their crib rails, pink and healthy. Dr. Blalock sounded off like a child throwing a temper tantrum. “Vivien Theodore Thomas, Doctor of Laws,” it reads, a quiet reminder of the thunderous ovation Thomas received when he stood in his gold-and-sable academic robe on May 21, 1976, for the awarding of the degree. “Nobody had fooled around with the heart before,” he says, “so we had no idea what trouble we might get into. View VIVIEN THOMAS's notice to leave tributes, photos, videos, light candles and for funeral arrangements Skip to Add Tribute Skip to Content While you enjoy our new look and all the great new features, rest assured that we haven’t changed any of the 4.7 million notices or … In December 1933, after a whirlwind courtship, he had married a young woman from Macon, Georgia, named Clara Flanders. 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. In 1976, Johns Hopkins University presented Thomas with an honorary doctorate. He and Thomas were a package deal, Blalock told the powers at Henry Ford. Blalock could see Thomas had a talent for surgery and a keen intellect, but he was not to see the full measure of the man he’d hired until the day Thomas made his first mistake. He helped develop treatments for blue baby syndrome during the 1940s. Baltimore was more expensive than either he or Blalock had imagined. “You’ve never seen anything so dramatic,” Thomas says on the tape. “Something went wrong,” Thomas later wrote in his autobiography. From the first, Thomas had seen the worst and the best of Blalock. In 1968, the surgeons Thomas trained â who had then become chiefs of surgical departments throughout America â 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. Vivien Theodore Thomas was born on August 29, 1910 in New Iberia, Louisiana, USA. It seemed that they were stuck. Blalock was a great scientist, a great thinker, a leader,” explains Denton Cooley, “but by no stretch of the imagination could he be considered a great cutting surgeon.  During the surgery itself, at Blalock's request, Thomas stood on a step stool at Blalock's shoulder and coached him step by step through the procedure. “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. "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. And Thomas had smiled and invited him up to his office. Say his name, and the busiest heart surgeons in the world will stop and talk for an hour. Only their rhythm changed. Survival was a much stronger element in his background. Within a few weeks, Thomas was starting surgery on his own. No one else had been able to explain such a complex phenomenon so simply. When Nashville's banks failed nine months after starting his job with Blalock and Thomas' savings were wiped out, he abandoned his plans for college and medical school, relieved to have even a low-paying job as the Great Depression deepened. “Vivien, I want you to listen to this,” he’d say before reading two or three sentences from the pad in his lap, asking, “Is that your impression?” or “Is it all right if I say so-and-so?”. As Blalock was laying plans for his 1947 “Blue Baby Tour” of Europe, Thomas was preparing to head back home to Nashville, for good. “Is the incision long enough?” he asked Thomas. But it was the words of hospital president Dr. Russell Nelson that hit home: “There are all sorts of degrees and diplomas and certificates, but nothing equals recognition by your peers.”. That was the beginning.”, A loudspeaker summons Cooley to surgery. Weeks after the last research project had been ended, Blalock and Thomas made one final trip to the “heart room”—not the Room 706 of the early days, but a glistening new surgical suite Blalock had built with money from the now well-filled coffers of the department of surgery. When Alfred Blalock died in 1965 at age 65, Vivien Thomas fell into a depression and did not undertake a major research project for six years.  Next, they operated upon a six-year-old boy, who dramatically regained his color at the end of the surgery. 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. Vivien Thomas retired in 1979 and died in 1985 at age 75. These young fellows can do a much better job than I can.  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 the lab. 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. . A Change of Heart: Vivien Thomas and the Blue Baby, The Unknown Black Heroes Who Saved Thousands of Lives, NHD Nationals 2016 -- Vivien Thomas and the Blue Babies, Something the Lord Made (The1st Heart Surgeon). So was his policy on Vivien Thomas, Blalock politely replied. “I might make Dr. Blalock nervous—or even worse, he might make me nervous!”. (2003) Timmermans Stefan, "A Black Technician and Blue Babies" in. He translated Blalock’s concepts into reality, devising techniques, even entire operations, where none had existed. Doctor 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 (now known as cyanotic heart disease) in the 1940s.  Among the dogs on whom Thomas operated was one named Anna, who became the first long-term survivor of the operation and the only animal to have her portrait hung on the walls of Johns Hopkins. In 1933, Vivien Thomas married Clara Flanders Thomas and had two daughters, Theodosia and Olga. It was Dr. Helen Taussig, a Hopkins cardiologist, who came to Blalock and Thomas looking for help for the cyanotic babies she was seeing. He died on November 26, 1985, due to pancreatic cancer. ”He made no salary demands, but simply announced his intention to leave, assuming that Blalock would be powerless against the system. That afternoon Blalock presented his situation to Dandy, who responded immediately with a donation to the department—earmarked for Thomas’s salary. Vivien Theodore Thomas Collection, Item no. In 1976 Hopkins awarded him an honorary doctorate and named him an instructor of surgery for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. 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. “Must I operate all alone? Written by Lou Potter and Andrea Kalin. In 1960 when Blalock celebrated his 60th birthday at Baltimore’s Southern Hotel, Thomas was not present. In 1950, six years after he and Blalock had stood together for Blue Baby One, Blalock operated on Blue Baby 1,000.  Having treated many such patients in her work in Hopkins's Harriet Lane Home, Taussig was desperate to find a surgical cure. Inside the lab, it was his skill that raised eyebrows. Still, Vivien Thomas made a place for himself. In infants born with this defect, blood is shunted past the lungs, thus creating oxygen deprivation and a blue pallor. . In 1937, Blalock received an offer of a prestigious chairmanship from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Due to his lack of an official medical degree, he was never allowed to operate on a living patient.. It is to her that the book is dedicated, and it was in her arms that he died, 52 years after their marriage. Dr. Blalock.”. Then the perspiring Professor would complete the procedure, venting his tension with a whine so distinctive that a generation of surgeons still imitate it. 10372340, citing Maryland National Memorial Park, Laurel, Prince George's County, Maryland, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave . Following his retirement in 1979, Thomas began work on an autobiography. 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" in some way to increase the level of blood flow to the lungs but did not suggest how this could be accomplished. Within a year, the operation known as the Blalock-Thomas-Taussig shunt had been performed on more than 200 patients at Hopkins, with parents bringing their suffering children from thousands of miles away.. 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. Thomas received no mention. . There I was, in one position for hours, and I was about to die. . In the world in which Thomas had grown up, confrontation could be dangerous for a black man. When they came to Hopkins, they brought with them solutions to the problems of shock that would save many wounded soldiers in World War II. He was the 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. According to the caption, the photograph was taken in 1979 in front of the hospital’s Broadway entrance. At the Thomas home, the signs of Vivien’s hands are everywhere: in the backyard rose garden, the mahogany mantelpiece he made from an old piano top, the Victorian sofa he upholstered, the quilt his mother made from a design he had drawn when he was nine years old. In the wake of the stock market crash in October, Thomas put his educational plans on hold, and, through a friend, in February 1930 secured a job as surgical research assistant with Dr. Alfred Blalock at Vanderbilt University. The Linked Data Service provides access to commonly found standards and vocabularies promulgated by the Library of Congress. He was a teacher to surgeons at a time when he could not become one. Besides, he had brought a colored man up from Vanderbilt to run his lab. At 5 PM, when everyone else was leaving, Thomas and “The Professor” prepared to work on into the night—Thomas setting up the treasured Van Slyke machine used to measure blood oxygen, Blalock starting the siphon on the ten-gallon charred keg of whiskey he kept hidden in the laboratory storeroom during Prohibition. “You see,” explains Cooley, “it was Vivien who had worked it all out in the lab, in the canine heart, long before Dr. Blalock did Eileen, the first Blue Baby. Thomas trained them and sent them out with the Old Hands, who tried to duplicate the Blalock-Thomas magic in their own labs. Then, as they settled down to monitor all-night shock experiments, Blalock and Thomas would relax with a whiskey-and-Coke. Blalock surprised Eileen’s parents and his chief resident, Dr. William Longmire, with his bedside announcement: He was going to perform an operation to bring more blood to Eileen’s lungs. Vivien Thomas was 19, a carpenter's apprentice, when he took a temporary job as a lab assistant to Dr. Alfred Blalock. With the help of an NAACP lawyer named Thurgood Marshall, Harold Thomas had won his suit.  The surgery was not completely successful, though it did prolong the infant's life for several months. Credits. He would check on me from time to time, just to make sure everything was all right. Thomas attended Blalock’s parties as a bartender, moonlighting for extra income. Always the family man, he was thinking practically. As quietly as he had come through Hopkins’s door at Blalock’s side, Thomas began bringing in other black men, moving them into the role he had first carved out for himself.  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. It was Thomas who remained, the one constant. Vivien Theodore Thomas (August 29, 1910 â November 26, 1985) was an American laboratory supervisor who developed a procedure used to treat blue baby syndrome (now known as cyanotic heart disease) in the 1940s. He died in November 26, 1985 of pancreatic cancer, at age 75, and the book was published just days later. In 1929, as he was preparing for college and medical school, Thomas lost his entire savings when a Nashville bank failed. Along the way, Thomas and Blalock grew old together, Thomas gracefully, Blalock more reluctantly. Thomas,” a man who represented what they themselves might become. “Those dogs were treated like human patients.”, One of the experimental animals, Anna, took on legendary status as the first long-term survivor of the Blue Baby operation, taking up permanent residence in the Old Hunterian as Thomas’s pet. He talked about how powerful Hopkins was, how traditional. “I hope you will accept this,” he told Thomas, drawing a file card from his pocket. In the 2004 HBO movie, Something the Lord Made, Vivien Thomas was portrayed by Mos Def. After all, Thomas had done the procedure dozens of times; Blalock only once, as Vivien’s assistant. In their long talks in Thomas’s office, the young surgeon remembers that “he taught me to take the broad view, to try to understand Hopkins and its perspective on race. Together they devised an operation to save “Blue Babies”— infants born with a heart defect that sends blood past their lungs— and Cooley was there, as an intern, for the first one.  He was the 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. You could also do it yourself at any point in time. 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. He was careful but firm when he approached Blalock on the issue: “I told Dr. Blalock . He says he’s on his way to do a “tet case” right now. . Off he went to the Pathology Museum, with its collection of congenitally defective hearts. “It’s been almost 25 years,” he says, “since Mr. Thomas got a hold of me in the elevator of the Halsted Building and asked me if I might be interested in becoming a laboratory assistant.”, Along with surgical technique, Thomas imparted to his technicians his own philosophy. Cheating Spouses, Secret Addictions and Identities—Marriages Are Buckling Under Covid Quarantine, 3 Captivating Longreads for a Corona-Free Weekend. Coached by Blalock’s young research fellow, Dr. Joseph Beard, Thomas mastered anatomy and physiology, and he plunged into Blalock’s round-the-clock research. , On November 29, 1944, the procedure was first tried on an eighteen-month-old infant named Eileen Saxon. 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