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Johns Hopkins Medicine
Office of Communications and Public Affairs
Media Contact:  Gary Stephenson
May 25, 2004

On May 30, at 9 p.m., HBO Films will air Something The Lord Made (,, a new movie based on the true story of two unlikely partners – a black lab technician and a prominent white surgeon – who together in one famous operation at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in the racially segregated 1940s ushered in the era of heart surgery.  Their unusual, poignant and sometimes stormy partnership did more than challenge the medical establishment; it challenged the social establishment of the day.

Starring Alan Rickman, Mos Def, Kyra Sedgwick, Charles S. Dutton and Mary Stuart Masterson, the film offers not only a dramatic story of healing and perseverance, but also a reflection on how far the nation, Hopkins and institutions like it have come in rewarding merit regardless of race or gender.

The Hopkins of today is not the Hopkins of the 1940s. Some of the most renowned African-American surgeons in the world are at Hopkins, including Ben Carson, the pediatric neurosurgeon widely known for his operations to end crippling seizures; cardiac surgeon Levi Watkins, who, in 1980, became the first physician to insert an automatic implantable defibrillator (developed at Hopkins) into a patient; Claudia Thomas, the first African-American female orthopedic surgeon in the nation; and trauma surgeon Edward Cornwell, whose efforts on behalf of violence prevention programs have matched his ability to save youthful victims of violence. Julie Freischlag, appointed chief of the Hopkins Department of Surgery in 2003, is the first woman to serve as a chief of surgery in the elite medical schools of the nation. Last year, 47 Hopkins medical students out of a class of 116 were females; 13 were African-American, 24 were Asian, and 5 were Hispanic. 

As the birthplace of cardiac surgery, Hopkins continues to build on its legacy of discovery and innovation. Stories you may want to pursue in conjunction with HBO Film’s “Something The Lord Made debut:”

  • Cardiologist Joshua Hare is using stem cells to repair damaged hearts in animals, a first step toward developing a therapeutic innovation with the potential to revolutionize the approach to cardiac care.
  • John Conte is one of only a handful of physicians performing a new procedure – ventricular restoration – on patients with congestive heart failure.  By surgically removing heart tissue that no longer functions and remodeling the main pumping chamber of the heart, he is offering patients an alternative to heart transplants or mechanical support devices.
  • Cardiologists are using a state-of-the-art CT scanner to perform coronary angiography in a way that is much less invasive to the patient but still provides the diagnostic information clinicians need to assess heart function. Best of all, the CT study can be performed in only 10 minutes, at a greatly reduced cost, and with less risk to patients.
  • Pediatric cardiologists are using sophisticated imaging equipment to detect cardiac defects in babies prior to their birth. At birth, the infants can be operated on immediately.
  • Using sophisticated robots, Hopkins surgeons are able to place pacemaker defibrillator leads in patients using much smaller incisions than used in conventional techniques.
  • Hopkins cardiologists, the first to operate on the heart, are now developing techniques to avoid operating on the heart. For example, pediatric cardiologists are using cardiac catheterization to repair holes in the septum (atrial septal defect) in the hearts of children using a synthetic patch placed over the hole by a catheter inserted into the heart via the leg. The patients are able to return home after only a few days versus the weeks of inpatient hospitalization required by conventional open-heart surgery.

  To learn more about Hopkins’ role in the HBO film Something The Lord Made or to cover any of the stories outlined above, contact Gary Stephenson at 410-955-5384, cell at 443-324-6726, pager at 410-283-4991, or e-mail at