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History of the Lab

Founded in 1942 by surgeon Alfred Blalock and surgical technician Vivien Thomas, the Cardiac Surgery Research Lab at The Johns Hopkins Hospital has a long and productive history. The lab traces its origins back to Dr. Blalock’s days with the development of a surgical procedure now known as the Blalock-Taussig shunt for correction of pulmonary stenosis, or “blue baby syndrome,” in Thomas’ research lab. On Nov. 29, 1944, Dr. Blalock, assisted by surgery chief resident William Longmire and intern Denton Cooley, and with Thomas and pediatric cardiologist Helen Taussig in the room, performed the procedure successfully on a frail infant. This surgery not only went on to save thousands of lives, but it also marked the beginning of a new era in cardiac surgery at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The landmark article documenting experimental evidence for the new technique, which appeared in the Journal of Thoracic Surgery in 1944, came straight out of the Hunterian Laboratory, the forerunner of the Cardiac Surgery Research Lab. Now located in the Alfred Blalock Building, the lab continues the traditions of basic science, clinical surgical research, and the training and education of surgical residents who have become leaders in their fields all over the world.

To date, the lab has published over 550 peer-reviewed articles and trained over 80 surgery residents for careers in academic surgery. Impressively, of these 80 trainees, almost half have become chairs of surgery departments or chiefs of cardiothoracic surgery divisions across the country, and over 20 percent have become presidents of a professional surgical society.


Revolutionary Goals

In 2014, the Cardiac Surgery Research Lab helped launch a 10-year, $100 million multidisciplinary effort to develop a fully functioning implantable artificial heart. The Hopkins Heart project is engaging medical, engineering, microbiology, physics, materials, systems and other researchers across the various schools of The Johns Hopkins University in a great scientific collaboration that aims to save thousands of lives each year. The Hopkins Heart project is just beginning, but its goal of revolutionizing cardiac care is already igniting the imaginations of visionary researchers across many scientific disciplines.

How You can Help

Many of our projects — including Hopkins Heart — are funded by generous public donations. While some of our education and research activities have been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health for the last 20 years, we rely on people like you to make some of our most ambitious goals come to fruition.

Give online now or visit the Heart and Vascular Institute’s charitable giving page to learn more.

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