Dr. Karl Thomas has been a faithful, trusted, and stalwart partner in the senior leadership of the Department of Internal Medicine for many years. This is why saying farewell to Karl is challenging. The institution is not just losing one of its most compassionate caregivers, but our department is losing one of its strongest leaders, an administrator and instructor who has shown the vision and initiative that has helped shape the present and future of Internal Medicine. As Executive Vice Chair for the last four years, Dr. Thomas has consistently provided critical input at key moments that has kept our department focused on its missions: giving our patients the excellent care they deserve, our faculty the support they need, and our students the experience to mold their futures.
Dr. Thomas joined the University of Iowa as a fellow in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in 1998 after completing his medical degree at Johns Hopkins University and his internship and residency at Stanford University. After his fellowship, Dr. Thomas chose to remain with us and quickly asserted his commitment to giving back what he had received by entering the Teaching Scholars program and becoming Course Director for Foundations of Clinical Practice. In the years since, he has assumed increasing levels of responsibility throughout the college and the hospital in addition to his clinical and instructional roles, serving on multiple steering committees, advisory councils, and working groups. In every position, Dr. Thomas is thoughtful with his advice, listens to the concerns of all stakeholders, and diligently builds consensus. In countless ways, Dr. Thomas has been involved in decisions both great and small, and his colleagues have been grateful and better off because of his effort.
But Dr. Thomas’s contributions to the University extend beyond his administrative efforts. Every patient and student he encountered benefited from his attention. Almost yearly, Dr. Thomas was recognized either for his patient care or his teaching, winning multiple Above and Beyond the Call of Duty awards or various Teacher of the Year awards from fellows and residents alike. Most recently, Dr. Thomas was awarded the Excellence in Quality award from the University of Iowa Physicians and the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation. These organizations and trainees recognize the dedication that Karl embodies as he improves the lives of his own patients as well as those of the future patients his students will encounter.
Personally, I owe a great deal of the success in my transition into this role as Chair to the continuity that Karl provided as Executive Vice Chair. His institutional memory, calm demeanor, and creativity in solving problems before they reached my desk have helped make these last eight months not just bearable, but enjoyable. I will miss his counsel and his deep-seated pragmatism as we confronted the challenges facing this Department together.
Thus, it is with heavy hearts, but also the pleasure that comes from seeing friends embark on a new venture, that we wish Karl and Alex all the best at Wake Forest University. That institution’s gain may be our loss, but we will always consider ourselves fortunate to have had the opportunity to work alongside and learn from one of the best in our profession.