American Experience
Early Years: Pivotal Decisions
Pivotal Decisions: Should Vivien Thomas Wear a Lab Coat?

You chose Choice Three. Thomas should continue to wear the full lab coat no matter what reaction it causes.

After eleven years supporting Dr. Blalock's research, Thomas has earned the right to wear the coat and should keep it in on in all venues.

Nat Crippens describes the situation.
(56k RealAudio)


Thomas is literally wearing his on-the-job experience "on his sleeve" when he puts on the coat.
The lab coat distinguishes him from students, interns and other staff.
Thomas' lab coat is an icon of achievement for other African Americans aspiring to medical careers at Hopkins.


Thomas has to confront curious glances and questions on a daily basis about his position with Blalock.
Wearing the full coat is contrary to Hopkins' customary uniform protocol.
Thomas may be seen as "putting on airs" or not "knowing his place" by wearing the coat.

See choices again

See what actually happened