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

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

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

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

Excerpt

During my career I gave little thought to writing my autobiography or memoirs. However, as the years rolled on and my life and my earlier activi- ties became more and more public, I inevitably found myself thinking over the record of years past.

The suggestion that I write an autobiography first came from Dr. Mark M. Ravitch, who edited The Papers of Alfred Blalock in 1966. He wanted to know more about the relationship between Dr. Blalock and me. Dr. Richard T. Shackelford, Professor Emeritus of Surgery at Hopkins, also encouraged me to tell the story of what I had been doing all the years I had been at Hopkins. The presentation of my portrait in 1971 gave some incentive and Dr. Ravitch took full advantage of the event to launch a relentless campaign insisting that I begin writing. I was hesitant and some- what reluctant, but a greater incentive came with the awarding of an hon- orary degree by Johns Hopkins University in 1976. I had never sought publicity concerning my work and had always taken my activity in life as a purely personal matter, yet now I began asking myself questions: Was my story worth the effort? Would others really be interested? If I wrote, what would I write? And -- not least of all -- how would I tell it? Indeed I had written little more than the notes and descriptions of experimental labora- tory procedures.

What finally convinced me to take up the task was my recognition of the uniqueness of my position. A nonprofessional, I had begun working with Dr. Blalock early in his career at Vanderbilt and thus had been deeply involved in research leading to historic developments in medicine and had become associated with many men who accomplished so much in that field. I lacked the formal education and training needed to become an instructor in surgery or an administrator of a research facility, yet I served in both capacities.

I deliberately postponed this work until my retirement at which time I could write at leisure, or so I thought. Once involved in writing, I found I had committed myself to an almost full-time job. I began with old files, notes, and the two-volume Papers of Alfred Blalock. Reminiscing about the research in which I participated, the people with whom I have been associated, the events and experiences of the years past has been a pleasant undertaking. However, recalling and recounting accurately over forty-nine years in medical research laboratories was frequently an arduous and te . . .

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