Partners of the Heart


Episode Info

This 60-minute entry in the PBS American Experience anthology chronicles the unorthodox medical partnership between Alfred Blalock, chief of surgery at Johns Hopkins, and Vivien Thomas, a black man with little more than a high school education. When Thomas applied for a janitorial post at Johns Hopkins in the early '40s, Blalock was impressed by the man's medical knowledge and took him on as a technician. Ultimately, it was Thomas who, in 1944, designed the surgical procedure to correct what was then known as "blue baby syndrome." But racial barriers being what they were at the time, his contributions went ignored, and Blalock reluctantly accepted all the credit. It was not until 1976 that the medical profession formally recognized Thomas with an honorary doctorate. Partners of the Heart combines straight newsreel footage and still pictures with dramatized recreations of the events.


Courtney B. Vance
as Vivien Thomas
Chris Haley
as Vivien Thomas
Beau James
as Alfred Blalock
Jane Leuders
as Helen Tausig

Partners of the Heart Photos