St. V’s Alumni: Accolades and Adventures - James Thomas, MD
Dr. James Thomas, ABEM Board of Directors member and St. V's graduate, recently came to speak to our residency program about life after residency, the process of becoming board certified, and maintenance of certification. He also gave a special lecture about intimate partner violence and recognizing it in the emergency department. Dr. Thomas has accomplished quite a bit since his time at St. Vincent and we are thrilled to feature him on our very first St. V’s Alumni: Accolades and Adventures!
When did you graduate from St. Vincent EM residency program? Tell us a little bit about your background before coming to St. V's.
I graduated for the St. Vincent Medical Center and The Toledo Hospital EM residency program in 1994. My prior education was a BS in Biology with a concentration in Romance Languages from Boston College. I attended the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee for medical school, graduating in 1991.
What different jobs or positions have you had since leaving St. V's?
Upon completing my residency, I took my first attending job at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, MA, in July, 1994. I was the first EM residency-trained physician in the group. Shortly thereafter, I went to work in my hometown in New Bedford, MA, at St. Luke's Hospital, which had the third busiest ED in Massachusetts at the time. After several years, I moved on to become the Associate ED Chair at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, MA. My entire career to date has been in the community hospital setting. I served one year as an ED Chief in Rhode Island, but this was not my niche. I returned back to Good Samaritan where I have been since.
I became involved with ABEM as an oral examiner in 2002. To date, I have participated in 34 oral exams in many roles, such as examiner, team leader, back-up examiner to cover last-minute cancellations, and most recently, as one of the chief examiners. I was honored to have been selected as a director of the ABEM board in 2017. My role with ABEM has truly been the pinnacle of my career as an ED doc. As a non-academician, I am surrounded by some of the best and brightest of our specialty, yet always respected for my input, opinion and expertise.
How did your experience at St. V's affect your outlook on medicine, service, and your journey to where you find yourself today?
When I was interviewing for residencies, I knew I wanted to practice in a community hospital setting. Although I have great respect for didactics, these are not of great interest to me. Additionally, participating in research studies is just not "my thing." However, I have tremendous respect for those who do this work and the great contributions they have made not only in EM, but in the whole world of medicine. We are some of the best and brightest! St. V's really helped shaped my career. I learned to care for many people with empathy and a nonjudgmental attitude. Furthermore, the Catholicity of the hospital was important to me on a personal level. In fact, I was in the Vatican when Marguerite D'Youville (the foundress of the grey nuns who ran St. Vincent's for many years) was canonized a saint by Pope St. John Paul II in December, 1990. I had no idea that I would be going to Toledo at that time for residency.
What was your biggest challenge during residency?
The biggest challenge for me during residency was being away from my family. I grew up in Massachusetts and had spent 4 years in Milwaukee. I was homesick at times, but tried to not let that bother me too much. I was a single guy, but still made lots of friends. Unfortunately, I have lost touch with many of them over the years.
What do you miss most from residency?
I miss the camaraderie of residency. You're all in it together and make the best of it. I also miss the educational lectures and journal clubs. This was a great way to learn.
What do you wish you spent more or less time doing during residency?
I am not a avid reader (and never have been), but I wish I would have read more during residency. It would have been great to have read Tintinalli from cover to cover over three years!
Who were your heroes in residency?
I always had fun with Paul dSV. Paul was born in a small city in Quebec, Canada. That's where his accent comes from (in case you didn't notice). My Mom was born in Montreal and I am a fluent French speaker. Paul was great to work with. When alone, we often conversed in French. I remember getting an LP on an obese woman when he couldn't get it. He probably wouldn't remember that, but you can remind him of it some time. Randy was always a gentleman. I always liked him and had great respect for him. He is a very special person.
What would you change about emergency medicine education?
I wouldn't change much with my residency. I'm not aware of what your current curriculum is like today, but our 36 months were very good, and there is little I would change.
What was your scariest moment during residency?
Getting a needle stick through and through my finger while suturing in a chest tube in the trauma room on an overnight shift. I remember pulling the whole thing through with silk suture material still attached. Remember this was when patients died of AIDS. The guy had sustained a GSW to the chest, probably not an upstanding citizen. Dr. Okazinski brought me into another room to talk to me about the situation. He was empathetic, but told me that if I was that afraid, that I may have chosen the wrong specialty for my career. It made me think. I paused. Then, I went back out and saw my next patient. I didn't look back. Sometimes, we all need to put things into perspective.
What is your favorite restaurant in Toledo?
Favorite restaurant in Toledo is Mancy's Steak House downtown.