This fall, 20 new scholars joined the Johns Hopkins community as members of the first cohort of the Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative, a $150 million movement backed by Bloomberg Philanthropies that aims to diversify scientific fields through education opportunities for diverse students.
Over the next six years, the initiative will provide funding for 100 selected students pursuing a Ph.D. in one of Johns Hopkins’ more than 30 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs. Each student will receive full financial and academic support, including six years of full tuition, stipends, insurance benefits and mentorship with some of the world’s top scientists.
The program is named after Black scientist Vivien Thomas, who helped develop a lifesaving cardiac surgery technique to treat blue baby syndrome at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. A research and surgical assistant at the hospital before receiving an honorary doctorate from Johns Hopkins, Thomas also became a surgery instructor at the school of medicine.
“Here was this tremendous talent who had amazing impact. And I think that’s the premise for this whole initiative, that there is this wealth of talent out there that is ready to assume the mantle of leadership and transform our STEM enterprise,” says Damani Piggott, director of the initiative and associate professor of medicine.
Along with providing funding for Ph.D. studies, the initiative will create and expand STEM-based opportunities at Johns Hopkins, including postbaccalaureate and research-intensive summer programs, and collaborations with six historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions to expand and run the Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative.
Eleven members of this first cohort will work directly with Johns Hopkins Medicine departments during their time in the program.
“I consider this to be a phenomenal group of human beings,” Piggott says.