Westlake Primary Care Provider Masters the Art, Science and Business of Medicine
May 14, 2023
UH Clinical Update | May 2023
Patients and colleagues call John Thomas, MD, MBA, the consummate physician, and speak of such qualities as the way he listens, his thoughtful demeanor, and of course, his clinical skills.
Dr. Thomas is part of a longtime family practice in Westlake, and was recently recognized as part of the Cliff Appreciates program, through which UH CEO Cliff A. Megerian, MD, FACS, Jane and Henry Meyer Chief Executive Officer Distinguished Chair, recognizes physicians for demonstrating extraordinary professionalism, exhibiting a commitment to value and advancing systemness.
Patients say that Dr. Thomas epitomizes the combination of science and compassion, something UH is known for. But his MBA also speaks to other talents, including logistical and organizational skills.
That additional degree served him well when he was a regional medical director for a large physician management organization, and as Chief Medical Advisor for Medical Mutual for almost 20 years.
Yet he never paused on being a family practice physician and practice lead during that time. And “family practice” in this case has a double meaning: his daughter Natalie Thomas, DO, joined the practice in 2016.
Dr. John Thomas recalls how his grandmother becoming ill when he was a young man affected his choice in medicine. “At first, I just wanted to fix my grandmother’s health problems, but as I matured I realized they had been developing for a long time,” he says. “Some were genetic, some self-induced, and of course some were a matter of aging. I chose a primary care specialty that could address most of those health care issues as early as possible in a patient’s lifetime.”
There was something else he also wanted to do: “And that was teaching medical students to be efficient, high quality healers who can resolve conflict, reach consensus, problem-solve, and make everyone, staff and patients, feel valued.”
John J. Wolf, DO, met Dr. Thomas nine years ago when he joined the Westlake practice, UH Family Medicine Specialists. “He has always been very welcoming, he understands the business, and he knows how to negotiate,” says Dr. Wolf.
“He is someone I can go to for advice about anything in medicine, whether clinical or business. I respect his judgment.”
So do others who work for him, like the medical assistant who has been with the practice for more than 20 years.
Among the qualities that garnered Dr. Thomas the “Dinner with the Doc” award were for leading by example and for being open, honest, approachable and fair-minded when working with his fellow physician colleagues as well as clinical and support staff.
As a practice leader, Dr. Thomas is praised for being a collaborative problem-solver - his office door is always open. He has served as a mentor to many, teaching Case Western Reserve University medical students.
Yet he also managed to be at home for family dinner nearly every night, recalled his daughter Natalie, which made her decide on a clinical profession for herself at a young age.
“By the time I was 8 or 9, I already thought I might want to be a doctor," says Natalie, who grew up in Rocky River. In addition to dinnertime conversations, she has memories of sitting in his office while he finished up with patients before going out to lunch.
Natalie said that by the time she went to college, majoring in biochemistry at Ohio State, she found herself more intrigued by the 'bio' than the 'chemistry.'
“I always found the human body and how it works so interesting," she says. So her father said she might consider becoming a DO rather than an MD. “He encouraged me to keep my mind open and pursue my interests no matter what direction that took me."
Still today, one of Dr. Thomas’ favorite philosophies is, “Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life," which he says is true to his experience.
There are many aspects of being a family physician that he appreciates, but especially this one: “Our job is more about recognizing patterns than particulars, and that takes some experience.
“As physicians, we will always be the interface between technology and humanity, but we always must remember, our job is to be a healer.”
Tags: Dinner with the Doc