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PHSC Celebrates its 50th Anniversary and Black History Month: Blue Babies

Vivien Thomas standing, in lab coat

Blue Babies

Vivien T. Thomas (1910-1985) was a heart surgery pioneer that help saved the lives of "blue babies," but never completed medical school.​ He helped create a device and procedure to treat the often-fatal condition Tetralogy of Fallot (also known as blue baby syndrome).​

  • Started as a janitor at Vanderbilt University, eventually becoming a lab tech, researcher, surgeon, and instructor. ​
  • Thomas and cardiologist Alfred Blalock formed a close partnership at Johns Hopkins University.​
  • He often went underpaid and uncredited for his work until late in his life, even bartending at parties for his colleagues and students to make ends meet.​
  • He mentored many surgeons throughout his career at Johns Hopkins, eventually earning an honorary doctorate in 1976.​


"Vivien T. Thomas, LL.D.," Medical Scientist Training Program. 2022. Accessed 21 Nov. 2022.