Honor Vivien Thomas, a Black Medical Pioneer, with a Commemorative USPS Stamp

Honor Vivien Thomas, a Black Medical Pioneer, with a Commemorative USPS Stamp

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“I think he is the most untalked about, unappreciated, unknown giant in the African American community. What he helped facilitate impacted people all over the world.” 

- Dr. Levi Watkins, Johns Hopkins University

Please join me in this petition to the United States Postal Service to create a stamp honoring Vivien T. Thomas, a medical pioneer who overcame huge obstacles and institutionalized racism to help revolutionize cardiac surgery. Through his hard work and determination, Thomas paved the way for generations of black doctors across the country. The Black Heritage Commemorative Stamp Series has honored some of the black figures who have made their mark on history. Thomas is undoubtedly worthy of such an honor.

Against the backdrop of Jim Crow segregation, Thomas, a black carpenter's apprentice with an innate 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. Working alongside their colleague, Dr. Helen Taussig, the duo put Johns Hopkins on the map by developing a revolutionary surgical procedure to treat a congenital heart defect called “blue baby syndrome”. Their technique, now called the Blalock-Thomas-Taussig shunt, saved over 200 infants and children within one year of its first trial procedure in 1943.

In brazen defiance of deep seeded segregation at John Hopkins and with only a high school degree, Thomas found himself at the center of groundbreaking medical research and a teacher to two generations of America’s premier heart surgeons. Ultimately, his professional acknowledgment provided for many an opportunity to revise their perspective on what modern medicine should look like: a collaborative endeavor devoid of political and racial conflict and driven by a mission of service to all in need of care.

Today, his portrait hangs next to that of his colleague Dr. Blalock in halls of Johns Hopkins Medical School and his remarkable story continues to reach new audiences through the award-winning documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman, ​Partners of the Heart (2003), and the Primetime Emmy winning HBO film Something the Lord Made.

Despite Vivien T. Thomas' impact on the medical field, his story is all too often lost in the annals of history. Including Thomas in the USPS Commemorative Stamp Series will truly extend his legacy of determination and excellence against all odds, inspiring the next generations of youth to pursue their dreams in science and medicine.

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