The Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative (VTSI) will endow and launch a major new effort to address historic underrepresentation in STEM. The $150 million initiative, backed by Bloomberg Philanthropies, will provide permanent funding to add a sustained cohort of approximately 100 new slots for diverse PhD students in JHU’s more than 30 STEM programs. As PhD students at Johns Hopkins, Vivien Thomas scholars will receive the academic and financial support needed to ensure their success, including up to six years of full tuition support, a stipend, health insurance and other benefits, along with significant mentorship, research, professional development and community-building opportunities.
Through the initiative, Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg Philanthropies will also establish and strengthen pathways for students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) to pursue and receive PhDs in STEM fields. JHU will create new and expanded research-intensive summer undergraduate and post-baccalaureate program experiences for students from HBCU and MSI institutions, and provide direct funding for expanded programming at an initial cohort of 6 Inaugural Partner HBCUs and MSIs to attract and prepare students for STEM graduate training and STEM careers.
Creating pathways for diverse, talented undergraduates to pursue PhDs in stem fields is a centerpiece of the Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative. Summer and post-baccalaureate research experiences, at JHU and elsewhere, have a remarkable record of nurturing interest among talented students to pursue high-level graduate training. Coupled with mentoring, they are crucial to getting students excited about applying for a STEM PhD, and expanded opportunities for summer and post-baccalaureate experiences at JHU could help fuel an increase in the numbers of students from diverse backgrounds applying for graduate programs in STEM. The Vivien Thomas program provides new slots in Johns Hopkins STEM summer and post-baccalaureate programs for promising students from HBCUs and MSIs in the STEM training pathway.
Partnerships across colleges and universities and other institutions with STEM-directed missions have proven crucial to encouraging diverse scholars to pursue and receive STEM PhDs. The VTSI looks forward with excitement to collaborating across the spectrum of HBCUs/MSIs and other institutions dedicated to supporting a diverse, inclusive and exceptional STEM workforce.
Partnerships with VTSI inaugural institutions: As the VTSI builds this ambitious program, JHU is working with multiple partners, including 6 inaugural partner institutions, who are providing expertise, advice and collaboration across multiple key components for program success, including identifying effective outreach strategies, providing guidance on essential program components, and guiding the creation of collaborative structures at partner institutions and JHU alike to support students and excite them about graduate STEM careers.
The Inaugural Partner institutions are Howard University; Morehouse College; Morgan State University; Prairie View A&M; Spelman College; and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Inaugural partners will be critical in advising the Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative as a whole, engaging additional MSIs, and identifying the optimal programming for scholars participating in the initiative.
The PhD students recruited through this program will be known as the Vivien Thomas Scholars, in recognition of one of Johns Hopkins University’s most celebrated figures. Dr. Thomas (1910–1985) was a renowned Black scientist who is best known for his work to develop a cardiac surgery technique to treat “blue baby syndrome” (Blalock-Taussig shunt) at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1940s—a life-saving advance for which he did not receive credit for decades. Dr. Thomas, who grew up in the Jim Crow South, enrolled as a premedical student at Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial College, an HBCU in Nashville, but was forced to drop out due to the Great Depression and was never able to enroll in medical school. Despite his lack of an advanced degree, Dr. Thomas spent his career as a pioneering research and surgical assistant. In 1976 Dr. Thomas was awarded an honorary doctorate by Johns Hopkins University and named instructor of surgery in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Portrait of Vivien T. Thomas by Bob Gee, Oil on Canvas, 1969
Damani Piggott, MD, PhD
Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Diversity and Partnerships
Associate Professor of Medicine
Director, Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative