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Something The Lord Made


Vivien Theodore Thomas




Vivien Theodore Thomas (August 29, 1910 – 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 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.


Thomas was unique in that he did not have any professional education or experience in a research laboratory; however, he served as supervisor of the surgical laboratories at Johns Hopkins for 35 years. In 1976, Hopkins awarded him an honorary doctorate and named him an instructor of surgery for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Without any education past high school, Thomas rose above poverty and racism to become a cardiac surgery pioneer and a teacher of operative techniques to many of the country's most prominent surgeons.


Alfred Blalock (April 5, 1899 – September 15, 1964) was an American surgeon most noted for his work on the medical condition of shock as well as Tetralogy of Fallot— commonly known as Blue baby syndrome. He created, with assistance from his research and laboratory assistant Vivien Thomas and pediatric cardiologist Helen Taussig, the Blalock-Thomas-Taussig Shunt, a surgical procedure to relieve the cyanosis from Tetralogy of Fallot. This operation ushered in the modern era of cardiac surgery. He worked at both Vanderbilt University and Johns Hopkins University, where he studied both as an undergraduate and worked as chief of surgery.


He is known as a medical pioneer who won various awards, including Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award. Blalock was also nominated several times for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Medicine.



The Blalock–Thomas–Taussig shunt (commonly called the Blalock–Taussig shunt) is a surgical procedure used to increase blood flow to the lungs in some forms of congenital heart disease. These conditions, in which a child is born with an abnormal heart include pulmonary atresia and Tetralogy of Fallot and are common causes of blue baby syndrome. The procedure involves connecting a branch of the subclavian artery or carotid artery to the pulmonary artery. In modern practice, this procedure is temporarily used to direct blood flow to the lungs and relieve cyanosis while the infant is waiting for corrective or definitive surgery. 



The Blalock–Thomas-Taussig shunt is used to this day in the first step of the three stage palliation the Norwood Procedure. The Norwood Procedure is the first of three surgeries intended to create a new functional systemic circuit in patients with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and other complex heart defects with single ventricle physiology


Viviene Theodore Thomas Honorary Degree from John Hopkins


Viviene Theodore Thomas


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