American Experience
Early Years: Pivotal Decisions
Who Should Clean The Lab?

Baltimore, 1941
Well after Thomas began his first surgical research procedures at Johns Hopkins, Blalock noticed that the laboratory, beyond Thomas' own work area, was a mess. When he asked Thomas to do something about getting it cleaned up, Thomas explained that the facility's housekeeper had been taking care of the rest of the building but not their lab.

During his first tour of the Old Hunterian Laboratory at Johns Hopkins, Vivien Thomas was struck by the drab, squalid condition of the rooms where he would be working. Dr. Blalock suggested that he paint the rooms before starting experiments, which Thomas promptly did. While preparing to get the procedures started, Thomas encountered resistance in obtaining equipment and supplies from Dr. Edgar Poth, the laboratory director. Thomas referred the problem to Blalock, who quickly resolved the matter with a handwritten note to Poth. Thomas got his supplies, but relations between Poth and Thomas were icy thereafter.

Through considerable extra effort, Thomas put the lab in working order. From that point on, he confined his experiments to a small area, which he personally maintained within the room. Over time, he noticed that the rest of the lab had not been cleaned since he began working. Outside his lab, Mrs. Dorman, the housekeeper, regularly swept, emptied trash, and cleaned sinks throughout the building. When Blalock noticed the lab's condition, he asked Thomas to see to it that things were cleaned up. Thomas described the negligent situation to Blalock and said that he could take a day off to straighten up but that he was not being paid to do the housekeeper's work.

Select one of these three choices:

Choice 1
Blalock should ask Thomas to regularly tidy up the lab in addition to his other duties.

Choice 2
Blalock should ask Thomas to work out the issue with the housekeeper and her boss, Dr. Poth.

Choice 3
Blalock should resolve the housekeeping problem and give Thomas the day off to straighten up the lab.