February 27, 2002
PHONE: 410-955-1534
E-MAIL: kblum@jhmi.edu

Johns Hopkins, Maryland Public Television and Local Film Company Showcase Medicine, Role Modeling to 280 Baltimore High Schoolers

– Media Invited to Talk, Documentary Preview March 5 –

Through the story of an unsung African-American hero of medicine whose work led to numerous advances in cardiac surgery, a Johns Hopkins cardiac surgeon and a Washington film company are encouraging more minority students to enter health and science careers.

Cardiac Surgery Professor and civil rights activist Levi Watkins, M.D., on Tuesday, March 5, will talk to a group of 280 Baltimore high school students about overcoming barriers, pursuing careers in science and medicine and the importance of mentoring and motivation, using the life of Vivien Thomas as his example. The event, co-sponsored by Spark Media of Washington, D.C., and Maryland Public Television, will be held at 10 a.m. at Hopkins' Turner Auditorium, 720 Rutland Ave. Media are invited.

Thomas, former supervisor of Hopkins' surgical laboratories, for 35 years developed and perfected surgical techniques on laboratory animals and taught his trade to surgeons, medical students, and residents despite having only a high school diploma. Many of the surgeons he taught, like Denton Cooley, M.D., of the Texas Heart Institute, became pioneers in their fields. With Thomas' help, Watkins went on to perform the world's first implant of a defibrillator in a human.

Thomas' story is showcased in a documentary called "Partners of the Heart," produced by Spark Media. More than 10 years in the making, the movie traces Thomas' life and his unusual partnership with the late Hopkins surgeon in chief Alfred Blalock. Highlights will be shown to the students.

In the 1940s, Thomas and Blalock spent hundreds of hours rehearsing and developing an operation that was the first to successfully repair the hearts of "blue babies," so named because their congenital heart defects left them blue from lack of oxygen. Their successful treatment of these infants at Hopkins opened the field of congenital heart surgery.

Funding for "Partners of the Heart" comes from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In conjunction with the film, Spark Media is launching an educational campaign geared to minority and disadvantaged youth interested in science and medicine. The film's themes include the importance of resilience, hard work and perseverance and will be at the core of the campaign, which is sponsored by the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation.

Please note this event is closed to the public. To interview Watkins, or to attend the event, please call me at 410-955-1534.


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