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
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19

Shortly after the meeting of the Old Hands Club (former Halsted residents) in February 1969, Dr. George Zuidema informed me that the group had been unanimous in a decision to commission the painting of my portrait. It took a little while to realize the significance of what he had said. My first reaction was that surely I must be dreaming. When my head cleared somewhat, I began asking myself questions. Who is doing this? The Old Hands Club, the doctors with whom I had worked for nearly twenty-eight years. But why did they do it? And what had I done to be ranked with the illustrious whose portraits hung on the walls of Hopkins? Two years later in an interview with Corinne Hammett, who was preparing a feature article for the Baltimore News-American covering the presentation of the portrait, she asked the same questions. I gave her the names of some members of the Old Hands Club who may have been instrumental in the commissioning of the portrait so that she could write them for the answers.

George G. Finney, Jr., was in charge of the arrangements for the presentation ceremony. Finney had received his M.D. degree in 1954 and completed his surgical residency in 1959. He and I discussed whether I should make a response. I told him I thought I should, my thinking being that a response would obviate the necessity of writing a note to each contributor, which could be difficult and awkward. My relations with them varied -- some were very good friends and others were not. A form letter would not be appropriate, these would have to be individual personal notes. In making a response, I felt that my remarks could be kept general, almost impersonal, and at the same time express my feelings.

The presentation of my portrait was on Februry 27, 1971, as part of the general program of the biennial reunion of former Hopkins medical students, house staff, research fellows, and faculty. I sat with my wife Clara, my family, and a few close friends in the front row of Turner Auditorium, which was filled to capacity. I listened as the presentation and acceptance speeches and remarks were being delivered. I enjoyed all of them, but I particularly appreciated the remarks of Dr. Russel Nelson in his reference to recognition by peers, those who were bestowing this honor upon me. Then came my turn to make whatever remarks I wished. Surely it was my first experience in speaking before such a large and distinguished audience. For almost thirty years I worked behind the scenes. Now I was being brought out front, to center stage with all eyes upon me.

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