Vivien Thomas — In Honor of Black History Month

Vivien Thomas

Where would my daughter be if it had not been for Vivien Thomas?

Here are some facts about Vivien Thomas:

  • He grew up in Nashville and had hopes of becoming a doctor, but unfortunately the Great Depression changed his plans. He had to put his education on hold and he became a carpenter. 
  • In 1930 he secured a job as a surgical research technician with Dr Alfred Blalock; however was classified and paid as a janitor. 
  • On his first day of work, Thomas assisted Blalock on a surgical experiment on a dog. Quickly after, Thomas was beginning surgeries on his own. 
  • By the mid 30’s Thomas was doing the work of a postdoctoral researcher in the lab.
  • In 1940 Blalock was offered the position of Chief of Surgery at John Hopkins and he requested that Thomas follow him. Many heads were turned as Vivien Thomas wore his white lab coat and walked past them in the halls of Hopkins.
Blue Baby Syndrome, aka Tetralogy of Fallot (SN- for those that read my blog during CHD Awareness Week you may remember my daughter was born with this.. read more here):
  • In infants born with this defect, blood is shunted past the lungs, therefore creating oxygen deprivation and a blue appearance (hence blue baby).
  • Blalock was approached by another cardiologist to find a solution.
  • Thomas was assigned to create the same blue like condition in a dog and then correcting it. After around 200 dogs in two years, Thomas was able to replicate 2 of the 4 cardiac anomalies involved with Tetralogy of Fallot. 
  • Even though Thomas was not allowed to operate on patients he still followed Blalock’s rules and assisted him during surgeries. 
  • Together as a team, Blalock and Thomas created a shunt, performed operations on more than 200 patients with the first year and had patients travel thousands of miles. 
There are so many interesting facts that surround the work and personal relationship with Vivien Thomas and Alfred Blalock; I could not possibly put them all on here. There is an HBO movie based on the life of Vivien Thomas called ‘Something the Lord Made’. It is an amazing movies that details the life, the stresses and the successes of Vivien Thomas. Below is a clip of the movie:
I encourage each of you to take the time to watch this movie. This movie does an excellent job portraying an amazing human being and the miracle that he created with his two hands. Like I said above, where would my daughter be if it had not been for Vivien Thomas. 

Good news— you can watch the full movie on Youtube.. click here!

Let me know what you think….

Written by: Aimee Fauci


  1. Janeane Davis says

    I watched this movies years ago and found it to be a moving and inspiring story.

  2. I had not heard of Vivien Thomas before. Absolutely amazing, not only what he accomplished – but what the went through to get to that point. Inspirational!

  3. Thanks for these interesting facts on Vivien Thomas. He sounds like an inspirational man.

  4. Eliz Frank says

    What a beautiful share on V. Thomas’ life and work. Sadly, a lot of these stories are not shared or told in our schools. Parents must make the effort to educate their children on the diverse contributions of many unsung heroes/heroines.

  5. Maddi'sMommy says

    What an amazing man, think of the things he could have done if he had been allowed to operate. It’s sad to think of all the things racism hurt.

  6. Krystal Butherus says

    Thanks for introducing this person to me! I hadn’t heard of this previously.

  7. Thomas sounds like a brilliant and amazing man. It’s great that Blalock appreciated him and it’s too bad that others did not. Imagine what all could have been accomplished if more people were recognized as people and not seen as “less thans.”

  8. Wow I learned so much about Vivien Thomas he was born in my hometown. I think someone I went to high school with forever ago had this. 🙁

  9. Debra Rutt says

    Thanks for sharing. I learned something new today – I didn’t know who Vivien Thomas was – but his contributions to the medical world are outstanding!

  10. Virginia Higgins says

    I learned about Vivien Thomas in nursing school, and his contribution to the medical world are invaluable. Thanks for sharing.

  11. It does sound like a good movie to watch. If I see it, I’ll be stopping on the channel. Thank you for sharing!

  12. Very touching facts. I definitely need to check out this movie.

  13. Catherine L. says

    Vivien Thomas was indeed a gifted man! Something the Lord Made is an amazing movie with great acting.

  14. Thank you for sharing these facts about this amazing man! I definitely want to check out the movie!

  15. I am so glad I happened up this and could learn more about such an amazing man.

  16. (Terry) My Journey With Candida says

    At first I thought with the name Vivien, you were speaking of a lady, then I seen the picture and realize it is a guy. I think I seen something about him the last time we visited Nashville, I just didn’t recognize the name.

  17. I find it incredible that he was a surgical assistant and was classified and paid as a janitor! It’s amazing to think of how far we have come!

  18. Very interesting. I love learning about influential people throughout history. I am going to look for this movie. It sounds like something I would really enjoy.

  19. What a great man. I love honoring those who did so much, especially dealing with adversity. Thanks for sharing about him. I’ve learned something here, that’s for sure.

  20. What an amazing man! My husband’s best friend’s son has Tetralogy of Fallot. He is definitely a miracle! 🙂

  21. He is an amazing human being! Thank you so much for spotlighting him. I Have never seen that movie, but I will make sure to watch it sometime!

  22. DeDa Studios says

    Amazing man – to be able to save so many lives is truly a gift from god.

  23. Leila Kennedy says

    Wow… what an interesting article! I love finding new blogs and learning something new and today I did just that! Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

  24. BrettBMartin says

    What a gifted man!! The wonders of science, and the amazing human mind that can think of this!!

  25. Breathtaking. It amazes me what people are capable of doing with their bare hands. What a wonderful man.

  26. Wow that’s amazing!

  27. Thanks so much for sharing!!! I am a GEEK for this kind of information. I was not aware of him. And, as soon as I get some free time in my schedule; I am going to watch this. Hopefully this week-end. Thanks again!!

  28. I have a dear friend whose son born with the same condition, I’m sure she is very thankful for Dr. Thomas as well.
    Great article and history lesson.
    Spatulas On Parade

  29. How interesting!! That is a real piece of history right there and I’m glad your little lady is doing great!!

  30. I love that movie so good it will always be a classic. He is on that I had forgotten about this month and we can’t forget about him.

  31. From Babita S: Thanks for introducing Dr. Vivien Thomas. I was born with congenital heart defect and had surgery to repair it in my late twenties. I am going to check this movie out.

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