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Partners of the Heart

Partners of the Heart
57:58 | 2003

Categories: Documentary, Biography, Health and Food

Against the backdrop of segregation, Vivien Thomas, a black carpenter's apprentice with a genius for surgery, and Dr. Alfred Blalock, a renowned white surgeon, dared to defy medical gospel by forging a partnership that changed the course of medical history.  The two men's work together led to one of the century's major breakthroughs - a daring heart operation that saved thousands of children afflicted with a congenital heart defect called "Blue Baby Syndrome."

Working together at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Blalock and Thomas made an unusual but powerful team. Blalock had revolutionary ideas of new treatments, and Thomas possessed the meticulous intelligence and dexterity that could translate Blalock's vision into reality.  Their partnership continued for 34 years, until Blalock's death in 1964.

With only a high school degree, Thomas became a cardiac pioneer and a teacher to two generations of America's premiere heart surgeons at a time when he himself could not become one.  His journey is a compelling, often overlooked American story of personal triumph over the strictures of his time.


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