The Thomas-Taussig-Blalock Shunt: Partners of the Heart

Thompson, Erin C.
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The Thomas-Taussig-Blalock Shunt: Partners of the Heart

Erin C. Thompson

Director: James Marcum, Ph.D.

Three individuals played important roles in the development of the surgical procedure to fix the congenital heart defect called tetralogy of Fallot, also known as the “blue baby” syndrome. These individuals include a white doctor named Alfred Blalock, a white doctor named Helen Taussig, and a black, or African American, lab technician named Vivien Thomas. In my first chapter, I discuss the history of the tetralogy of Fallot and the setting during which the development of the surgical procedure took place in 1944. In my second chapter, I introduce Thomas and Blalock and describe the beginning of their partnership at Vanderbilt University. In the third chapter, I introduce Helen Taussig and describe how this procedure came about at The Johns Hopkins University. In my final chapter, I discuss the recognition that Thomas eventually received and evaluate the way racial and occupational hierarchies affected Thomas and Blalock’s mutually beneficial 34-year partnership.

Vivien Thomas., Alfred Blalock., Helen Taussig., Tetralogy of Fallot., Racial discrimination., The Blalock-Taussig shunt., Lab technicians.