Pioneering Research in Surgical Shock and Cardiovascular Surgery: Vivien Thomas and His Work with Alfred Blalock : An Autobiography

By Vivien T. Thomas | Go to book overview

2

Early in February 1930, I asked Charles Manlove, a very close friend of mine with whom I had grown up, if there were any openings for jobs at Vanderbilt University, where he was employed. He worked for Dr. Ernest W. Goodpasture in the Department of Bacteriology. I explained the situation I was in and the freeze I had put on my money. Charles told me that he knew of a job opening with Dr. Blalock at the school, but he said he understood the guy was "hell" to get along with and didn't think I'd be able to work with him. I told him that things were so tight I'd have to take my chances; I had to have some source of income.

The next morning, February 10, 1930, Charles and I went to the Medical School. We found that Dr. Blalock was scheduled in the operating room that morning, so Charles took me to the bacteriology laboratory in which he worked, preparing sterile culture media which at that time were not commercially available for the hospital and laboratory. We returned to the Experimental Surgery Laboratory around 11 a.m. When we arrived, Dr. Blalock was crossing the hall on the way to his office with a Coca Cola in his hand. Charles introduced me to Dr. Alfred Blalock at the doorway. Since Charles had told me that he was in charge of the laboratory, I expected, at the least, a mature, middle-aged person. Instead, Dr. Blalock looked more like a college senior or a medical school student. He was very cordial and polite. He thanked Charles for bringing me and invited me into his office, which was actually an individual laboratory. It held a desk, a swivel chair, two laboratory stools, a wooden animal operating table placed in front of a sink, and three pieces of apparatus (see fig. 1). I later learned that the pieces of equipment mounted on the workbench which ran across the laboratory beneath the windows were Van Slyke-Neill blood gas manometers. The apparatus on a wooden table in the corner by the sink was a Benedict-Roth spirometer. Dr. Blalock offered me a seat on one of the stools and he sat on the other, drinking his Coke and smoking.

His manner was very easygoing, quiet but serious. He first asked me if I had finished high school. He then asked if I had plans to go back to school. When I answered in the affirmative, he wanted to know why I was not then in school. I told him of my financial situation, that I would have to work my way through school. He asked what I would do if I was able to finish college, and I told him I would like to go on to medical school.

-9-

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