Johns Hopkins Welcomes Second Cohort of HBCU STEM Scholars as Part of $150M Commitment


by Veracity Savant

September 27, 2023

Johns Hopkins University has welcomed its second cohort of HBCU STEM students to join the prestigious Vivien Thomas Scholars program, Johns Hopkins University reports.

Launched in 2021, the program is named for Vivien Thomas, a Black surgical laboratory supervisor who served at Johns Hopkins for nearly four decades, starting in the 1940s. Thomas trained numerous surgeons and scientists, and is best known for his creation of the life-saving cardiac surgical technique used to treat methemoglobinemia — which is also known as “blue baby syndrome.” The initiative is inspired by Thomas’ legacy, with the goal of creating pathways for students from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions ( MSIs) interested in pursuing PhDs in STEM fields at Johns Hopkins

“As everyone knows, we stand for this initiative on the shoulders of the giant that is Vivien Thomas. As we look out at all our exceptional scholars here with us today, I can say without fear of contradiction that Dr. Thomas’ legacy and spirit is fully alive, embodied in spirit in their own journeys and paths,” said Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative’s executive director Damani Piggott. 

The initiative is funded by a $150 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative and is the first-ever Bloomberg philanthropic portfolio dedicated strictly to advancing racial wealth equity. Last year, the program welcomed its first 20 cohorts, with hopes to eventually expand to support 100 PhD students at Johns Hopkins over the next six years.


Students in this second cohort hail from the nation’s top HBCUs, including Howard University, Bowie State, Morehouse, Hampton, North Carolina A&T, and Florida A&M. Each scholar is pursuing a PhD in some STEM field and will receive up to six years of full tuition, health benefits, a stipend, as well as mentor, research, and professional development opportunities. 

“The Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative was one of the first investments made by the Greenwood Initiative and is emblematic of what we need in communities across the country – expanding opportunities and increasing diversity in STEM professions,” said Garnesha Ezediaro, head of the Greenwood Initiative. 

Scholars from the first cohort have already shown tremendous progress. And scholars from the second cohort are pursuing careers in everything from mechanical and biomedical sectors to neuroscience and immunology. The program will help to close the racial wealth equity gap while also creating pathways for underserved communities into STEM careers.


“I can’t wait to see how this program will propel each one of these exceptional individuals to new heights. We’re already hearing of the great progress from last year’s class, and we’re so excited to continue supporting their achievements.”

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