American Experience
Early Years: Pivotal Decisions
Pivotal Decisions: Should the Thomas Family Move To Baltimore?

Nashville, 1940
When Alfred Blalock is offered a prestigious position at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, he wants to take his laboratory technician, Vivien Thomas, with him. After a decade of dedication to Blalock and his research, Thomas must choose.

Dr. Blalock was beginning to receive recognition from other institutions for the results his Vanderbilt research team had produced. They had discovered the physiology behind shock, which resulted from trauma to the body. In 1937, he received an offer from the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Blalock had stipulated that he would like to bring his surgical assistant Vivien Thomas along as part of the deal. The deal fell apart because Blalock was not offered the top job.

In 1940, as World War II was raging in Europe, Thomas was of draft age. Blalock received another offer -- this time from his alma mater, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. The institution wanted to make Blalock surgeon-in-chief and chairman of the Department of Surgery. Again, he included Thomas as part of the package. He forewarned his assistant that should he accept, Thomas should be prepared to move his family to Baltimore. Just before Christmas, 1940, Thomas received word that Blalock had accepted the offer.

Select one of these three choices:

Choice 1
Thomas should continue working with Blalock and move his family to Baltimore.

Choice 2
Thomas should move temporarily to Baltimore but keep his family in Nashville.

Choice 3
Thomas should stay in Nashville and return to higher paying carpentry work.