Vivien Theodore Thomas (1910-1985) was an African-American laboratory technician and instructor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. He was born as the grandson of a slave in Lousiana, working as a carpenter and subsequently as a laboratory technician after the great depression and the loss of his savings derailed his plans to become a doctor. In his role as a laboratory technician, he overcame challenging personal circumstances to become an innovator in paediatric cardiac surgery, despite having no formal college education. He played an important role in assisting Alfred Blalock and Helen Taussig in the development of the 'Blalock-Taussig' shunt, a procedure used to improve the survival of children with cyanotic congenital heart defects. He also contributed to major breakthroughs in research covering a spectrum of disorders such as traumatic shock, coarctation of the aorta and transposition of the great arteries. He acted as a teacher and mentor to a generation of surgical residents and technicians who went on to become leaders in their field across the USA. A television film based on his life was premiered by HBO in 2004 titled 'Something the Lord made'.
Keywords: Blalock-Taussig shunt; Johns Hopkins; Tetralogy of Fallot; Vivien Thomas.