All in the Family
For Dennis R. Thomas, M.D. and Clifton Thomas, M.D., father and son physicians isn’t the whole story of Thomas family medical excellence. In this family that is all about caring for others, Clifton’s mom is a physical therapist and both sisters are occupational therapists––and are mighty proud of one another.
“Seeing my dad so happy in his work as I was growing up pointed my way toward medicine,” says Clifton. He remembers years as a little boy in Adel, where his dad was in a private practice and his mother, Tammy Thomas, cared for physical therapy clients, particularly orthopedic rehab.
“I just grew up around mom and dad being with patients.”
He suggests “really liking the sciences and finding them easier than history and calculus” might have influenced his pursuit of a medical career too.
Dennis Thomas graduated from the Medical College of Georgia and completed his residency at the Medical Center Family Practice Residency in Columbus, Georgia. He also holds senior status as an aviation medical examiner.
Clifton graduated from Valdosta State University and headed directly to Ross University School of Medicine in the Caribbean. Florida Hospital, now AdventHealth, was the site for his residency. He is board certified in family medicine.
Today, the whole family practices through South Georgia Medical Center. Cliff’s age falls in the middle of sisters Hayley Hester and Ashlyn Warren, home health care specialists skilled in occupational therapy.
Dennis sets the family tone, speaking about how rewarding it is to help people. He’s been doing so since opening that practice in Adel in 1984. SGMC became his home base in 1996.
Continuity of care defines his pleasure being a family medicine physician.
“I get to take care of the entire family, to befriend the whole family,” says Dennis.
For him, that involves earning this distinction: Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians––board-certified, of course, but also a higher honor as a “champion of family medicine” with advance studies, community participation and publishing findings.
“I enjoyed all the disciplines in my medical studies,” recalls Dennis, “so it was hard to choose. I learned I could use them all in family practice.”
Interesting side note: Family practice was the title in his early years. Today, family medicine is the proper terminology.
Both men embrace continuous learning, adding additional skill sets and understanding entire constellations of symptoms. Stints in emergency medicine and urgent care, as well as their family practice allow using multiple skill sets, both say. “Plus,” adds Cliff, “that switches things up a bit.”
It seems perfectly natural that a physician son might seek a father’s expertise. That could mean hallway consultations, or just a quick question, but Cliff grins when he offers up, “I don’t say to a patient ‘Let me call my dad.'”
Written by Christine Tibbetts, Southwest Georgia Living Magazine, July/August 2019 issue.