Black Contributions to Medical Breakthroughs

BreathroughBreakthrough! How Three People Saved “Blue Babies” and Changed Medicine Forever
by Jim Murphy
144 pages; ages 10 & up
Clarion Books, 2015

It’s not quite Black History month, but this week is a great time to introduce young readers to a hero they might not have heard of: Vivien Thomas. Way back in 1944 he was part of a team that performed one of the first successful heart operations on a child. This is a story about the medical breakthrough that not only saved the lives of tens of thousands of children but also opened the way for future heart surgeries.

The team that performed this high-risk surgery included surgeon Dr. Alfred Blalock, pediatric physician Dr. Helen Taussig, and African-American lab assistant Vivien Thomas. Blalock received the fame, but it was Thomas who developed and perfected the surgical technique to repair the hearts of children born with “blue baby” syndrome. In fact, he was the only person who had ever carried out the surgery successfully on a research animal.

But most of the people working at Johns Hopkins thought Thomas was a janitor! You can read the full review at Archimedes Notebook.

Nonfiction Monday

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