Honoring Pat Thomas

On Thursday, November 21, we held an Innovations in Medical Education symposium to honor the career of Patricia Thomas, MD, FACP, Vice Dean for Medical Education and the Amasa Ford Professor of Geriatric Education. We had stellar speakers from outside the university, representation from all seven medical schools in Ohio and all of our affiliated hospitals, plus the basic sciences. Nearly every presenter acknowledged the tremendous innovation that Pat has catalyzed, and indicated their huge respect for her quiet leadership, her manner, her innovation, and her devotion both to scholarship and to the students. It was quite a day.

It allowed me to reflect upon the true excellence and innovation that characterize our medical education program. In her five years here, Pat has encouraged and solidified the areas of concentration, or Pathways; spurred and strengthened longitudinal clerkships, now considered the class of the field; oversaw the development of an innovative anatomy program of holoanatomy, radiology, and living anatomy with ultrasound, which plays opposite a course in health systems science; and developed inter-professional education to a strong degree. At the same time she has honed the IQ groups to a fine edge, and hewed to the highest standards of professionalism for our students. Our medical curriculum is enviable. We attract great students, they do well on the standardized exams, but more importantly, they emerge as excellent physicians entering terrific residencies. One of the speakers, Holly Humphrey, President of the Macy Foundation, spoke about imprinting in the context of the importance of the culture in which one is trained – truly our students are imprinted in the finest traditions of Case doctors.

It’s not often that you get a chance to consider the sweep of a program at leisure. Oh, sure, we put it together for LCME but, however important, that is more an exercise in checking boxes and filling in tables than it is in reflection on our program, where it is, and where we want it to go.  This symposium, occasioned by Pat’s imminent retirement in December, gave us just that opportunity.   We can be pleased with all the progress we have made so far, and hopeful that most of the innovators Pat has enabled, trained, and nurtured are still here and still at it.  They are still liberated to think big.  As Dr. Humphrey put it, when we throw a pebble in the pond, the ripples go far from where the pebble lands. The ripples Pat has initiated will be far reaching, and I cannot wait to see what else will develop from them.