SOM Launches Vivien Thomas Fund to Increase
of Medicine announced on May 26 the establishment of
the Vivien Thomas Fund for Diversity to increase the number
of minorities in the academic medicine talent pool. The
fund honors the memory of the black surgical technician
whose pivotal contributions to the development of the "blue
baby" operation at Johns Hopkins 60 years ago ushered in
the era of heart surgery.
"With the help of private philanthropy, we can reach
out to groups considered underrepresented minorities and
ensure their broadest possible representation in biomedical
science and academic medicine," said Edward D. Miller, dean
and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. "We can best honor
Vivien Thomas by removing for others the economic and
racial barriers that often stood in his way."
Denied the chance to go to medical school by financial
losses in the Great Depression, Thomas also was for many
years denied — because of his race — the
recognition he deserved for his work on the team that
devised a means to correct a congenital heart defect known
as Tetralogy of Fallot, or blue baby syndrome. His story is
the subject of the HBO feature film Something the Lord
Made, now being aired, and of the PBS documentary Partners
of the Heart, which was based on Thomas' autobiography.
Thomas died in 1985.
Operating on the heart was considered beyond reach in
the 1940s, when Thomas helped design and perfect in animal
models the operation imagined by surgeon Alfred Blalock and
pediatric cardiologist Helen Taussig to repair the heart
defect. Similarly out of reach were equal opportunities for
blacks at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere in academic medicine.
Thomas' intellect and skills had won him the post of
Blalock's lab tech, but it took more than 25 years for him
to be credited publicly for his role in devising the blue
In 1976, The Johns Hopkins University awarded him an
honorary doctorate, and today his portrait hangs along with
Alfred Blalock's in the lobby of The Johns Hopkins
Hospital's Blalock Building.
The Vivien Thomas Fund, Miller said, is an extension
of the school's commitment to diversity. In 2004, more than
11 percent of Johns Hopkins medical students are black, as
are more than 60 of the full-time faculty, including such
luminaries as surgeons Levi Watkins, Ben Carson and Edward
Cornwell, and Vice Dean for Education David Nichols.
To contribute to the Vivien Thomas Fund, contact the
Fund for Johns Hopkins Medicine at 1 Charles Center, 100 N.
Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21201, or call 410-516-6800.
Contributions can be made online at
HBO film to be screened for Dunbar High
Approximately 200 students and their teachers at
Dunbar High will attend a screening today of Something the
Lord Made. The event was arranged by the Johns Hopkins
Office of Government, Community and Public Affairs.
After the screening, students will hear brief remarks
by School of Medicine professor Peter Agre, co-recipient of
the 2003 Nobel Prize in chemistry; David Nichols, vice dean
for education at the School of Medicine; Terri Taylor, an
alumna of the university's Graduate Training Program in
Cellular and Molecular Medicine and a high school chemistry
teacher; and Brad Sutton, a current medical student at
Hopkins. All will field questions from the students.
Johns Hopkins and Dunbar High School have a history of
working together. Since 1996, the Dunbar-Hopkins Health
Partnership has provided advanced courses, training,
mentoring, SAT preparation and health-related jobs and
internships to more than 1,200 students. Many Dunbar
graduates are now medical professionals, including a number
who are practicing physicians. Dunbar High is also a
professional development school where students at the Johns
Hopkins School of Professional Studies in Business and
Education and Morgan State University do their student
teaching. The partnership is designed to improve the Dunbar
students' performance through research-based instruction.
Screening for Johns Hopkins employees will take place
in July during the week of celebrations for U.S. News &
World Report's Best Hospital rankings.
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