Students and colleagues nominated her for the national award, given to volunteer faculty, after she was named the Illinois Family Medicine Teacher of the Year in October 2014.
“I was so pleasantly surprised to get the notification of the award from the AAFP,” Dr. Thomas said. “There are so many family docs who are doing amazing things for their patients, trainees and communities and to even be considered among them is definitely humbling.”
The AAFP Exemplary Teaching Award acknowledges members who deserve recognition for their teaching skills and who have implemented outstanding educational programs and/or developed innovative teaching models.
Dr. Thomas was one of the four preceptors for the initial rollout of Feinberg’s new continuity-focused curriculum, called Education-Centered Medical Home (ECMH). Her experience during the first year helped shape the decision to make ECMH a permanent part of Feinberg’s curriculum.
“With a program like ECMH, where we have the chance to work with the same students longitudinally, I can’t help but get to know each student’s strengths, weaknesses and aspirations. These long-tern relationships we’ve built really help in terms of providing advice and mentorship, which translates into greater teamwork in the clinical setting,” Dr. Thomas said.
In addition to her strides in improving medical education, Dr. Thomas was singled out for praise by her colleagues for the time she takes to get to know each of her students.
In a letter nominating Dr. Thomas for the award, Kristen Unti ’15 MD, one of Thomas’ former students, wrote, “Many wonderful teachers can unidirectionally instill knowledge in their students. What sets Dr. Thomas apart from all the rest is her genuine interest in students and connecting with them on a personal level. She puts significant time and effort into communicating with us outside of the clinic, which allows her to tailor her teaching to our specific career interests.”
The American Academy of Family Physicians and its chapters represent 120,900 family physician, resident and medical student members.