Vivien T. Thomas Lecture

The Society of Thoracic Surgeons launched this named lecture at the 2020 STS Annual Meeting in honor of Vivien T. Thomas. Thomas was a Black surgical technician with only a high school education, who steadfastly designed and tested anastomosis of the subclavian artery to the pulmonary artery, resulting in the landmark “blue baby” operation in 1944 for children with tetralogy of Fallot. The Vivien T. Thomas Lectureship Award is granted by TSF as an honorarium.

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The Vivien T. Thomas Lecturer is selected by STS; applications are not accepted for this honor.
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Breakthrough Procedure

Nearly 75 years ago, Dr. Alfred Blalock and colleagues—guided by the technical support of a steadfast laboratory assistant—performed the first “blue baby operation” on a small child with tetralogy of Fallot at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The child benefited from a team that included surgical legends Drs. William Longmire and Denton Cooley, and Pediatric Cardiology legend Dr. Helen Taussig. They collaborated to create a shunt that initiated the dawn of a new era in cardiovascular care.

Vivien Thomas' Role

This breakthrough may not have been possible without the courageous friendship between Dr. Blalock and his assistant, Vivien Thomas. A Black carpenter’s apprentice, Thomas had a genius for surgery. Although he was never able to attend medical school himself, Thomas was a respected teacher for countless residents.

Some 30 years after that surgery, Johns Hopkins honored Thomas with the title of Instructor Emeritus in Surgery. But it was Thomas’s technical skill and his respect for Dr. Blalock that unlocked the future of cardiovascular surgery.

Establishment of the Thomas Lecture

STS introduced the Vivien T. Thomas Keynote Lecture in 2020 in honor of Vivien Thomas. It recognizes what can be accomplished through inclusion and underscores the Society’s commitment to those values.

About The Award

Are you qualified for this award? Start your application today!

TSF is dedicated to supporting cardiothoracic surgeons at every career stage. Don’t miss out—submit your application by September 15 to be considered in the upcoming award cycle.

A surgeon performing some surgery

Explore Our Conference Scholarships

These scholarships are open to cardiothoracic surgery residents and provide access to the very best in education from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons.