Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative at Johns Hopkins University
In May 2021, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Johns Hopkins University announced the creation of the Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative, a $150 million effort to address historic underrepresentation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields and prepare a new, more diverse generation of researchers and scholars to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges. The program is specifically designed to create additional pathways for students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) to pursue and receive STEM PhDs.
Increasing Diversity in STEM Fields
We cannot hope to produce the best science nor ensure that our faculties are truly representative until we increase the diversity of our PhD programs. Through the Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative, Johns Hopkins now has the opportunity and imperative to invest ambitiously, think ambitiously, and act ambitiously to begin correcting the longstanding inequity in PhD education.
Ronald J. Daniels, President of Johns Hopkins University
There remains a tremendous need to diversify STEM PhD programs; in 2019, there were more than 30 fields of science — including multiple disciplines in biology, chemistry, physics, math, and engineering — in which fewer than five PhDs were awarded to Black or Latinx students in the United States. And while Black Americans comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population, in 2019 they received just three percent of new engineering, math, physical sciences, and computer science PhDs. Through the Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative, Johns Hopkins will dramatically scale up its efforts to diversify its STEM PhD programs and graduate more diverse PhD recipients to help bring sorely needed new voices and backgrounds to STEM industries and workforces.
The PhD students recruited through this program will be known as the Vivien Thomas Scholars, in recognition of one of Johns Hopkins’ most celebrated figures. Thomas was a Black surgical laboratory supervisor 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.
Out of the 20 scholars selected for the 2022 inaugural cohort, all of them are from historically excluded groups, all have graduated from Minority Service Institutions or HBCUs, and 45% are first-generation college students. This gift 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.