Vivien Thomas


The young black janitor who changed the world … Vivien Thomas (1910-1985). In 1944, Hopkins’ surgery chief, Dr. Alfred Blalock, successfully operated on the heart of a 9-pound child, a “blue baby.” As Blalock prepared to make his historic incision, he looked around the operating room and asked, “Where’s Vivien?” Blalock would not begin surgery until his janitor-turned-surgical assistant, Vivien Thomas, was there to guide the procedure. Prejudice long kept Thomas’ crucial role unacknowledged.


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