Vivien Thomas

This man was made aware to me recently, yesterday literally, by a good high school friend of mine whose son has benefited from this Black man’s invention.

During the time of the Great Depression, many people lost everything they had. For so many, life savings, college funds, dreams, hopes and aspirations were dashed. This young man was amongst them. He had to give up his dreams of attending college at that time to pursue a way to provide for himself.

He was lucky to come across an individual that needed help by the name of Dr. Alfred Blalock. under hsi tutelage, Thomas was found to be a very quick learner and having very steady hands.

Thomas created the Blalock-Taussig shunt, which is an operation to help babies heart regenerate blood from the hearts to their lungs. Notice his name is not in the founding title. At the time, the credit was given to the white “master” – master in the sense of blacks being apprentices. He performed the procedure on a baby and became the first African American without a doctorate degree to perform open heart surgery.

This groundbreaking technology, of its time, made the university and Blalock gain notoriety. No credit was ever given to Thomas, neither by the University (which was to be expected) nor the man who “stole” the credit (Blalock.) It wasn’t until 1989 (four years after his death) that his story was made widely known.

Please watch Like Something The Lord Made – a PBS documentary.

Thank you Britteny Hubbard-Thomas for bringing this great man to my attention.

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