The Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative, named for one of Johns Hopkins University’s most beloved figures, has arrived.
In a press release announcement, it was revealed that the initiative — made in partnership with Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg Philanthropies — has a $150 million war chest. This war chest is set to address the racial disparity in STEM education, and to bring diversity and inclusion programs within the STEM field into colleges and universities.
Specifically, the Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative will be investing in students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).
In a statement provided in the press release announcement, billionaire businessman and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that the growing racial disparity in STEM fields has reached its tipping point, and that the philanthropic arm of his company felt compelled to invest in a program that would address it in a positive, inclusive way.
“STEM fields play an increasingly important role in developing innovative solutions to a wide range of pressing challenges, yet STEM Ph.D. programs don’t reflect the broad diversity of our country. So creating more equitable opportunities for more students is critical to our country’s future in so many ways,” he said. “By supporting JHU’s world-class STEM program, and by partnering with historically Black and minority-serving schools that have a strong record of educating students who go on to get STEM PhDs, we will help increase diversity in industries that will pioneer advances we have not yet even imagined, and shape the lives of generations to come.”
The namesake of the Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative is a Black man named Vivien Thomas. In the 1940s, he developed an exclusive technique to treat “blue baby syndrome” — also known as cyanotic heart disease in which either circulatory problems or oxygen-release problems cause a baby to have a blue tinge to his or her skin. In addition, Thomas was a surgical assistant at both Vanderbilt University and Johns Hopkins University.