Hello, my name is Adrian Fisher, the Curator of Exhibits and Collections here at the Bakken. I would like to share with you some infomration about a contemporary of Earl Bakken, Vivien Thomas.
Vivien Thomas had hoped to go to medical school, but lack of funds and the obstacles presented by racial segregation prevented him from doing so. He worked as a lab technician for the renowned surgeon Alfred Blalock, helping him to develop techniques for use on human patients and designing surgical equipment. At times Thomas accompanied Dr. Blalock in the operating room to guide him through surgery.
Thomas trained many surgeons at Johns Hopkins University in the delicate techniques for heart and lung operations, even though he had only a high school degree. One of his students, Dr. Levi Watkins, carried out the first surgery to implant an automatic defibrillator in a human in 1980. Watkins called Thomas “the most un-talked about, unappreciated, unknown giant in the African-American community. What he helped facilitate impacted people all over the world.”