November 23, 2017
Courtesy of Karen Brune Mathis Jax Daily Record
Nicole Thomas was the first woman in Baptist Health’s 61-year history to be named a hospital president when she was appointed to the post at Baptist Medical Center South in June 2016.
I have 24/7 responsibility for the quality and patient experience of care delivery in our hospital and all of the outpatient activity that happens on the South Campus. I am responsible for the care that patients receive at Baptist South, physically, emotionally, spiritually, the total package. It is a $250 million entity with 1,250 employees and 800 physicians dedicated to providing care in the most compassionate way possible.
What others have told me (about being the first woman president) is it’s well overdue, so that’s good news. It’s a welcoming environment that supports a track record of success.
Growing up, I wanted to be a Houston Oilers cheerleader. That’s how old I am because the Houston Oilers don’t exist. I certainly had not ever heard of a hospital president. After my undergraduate program and then graduate school, I realized I wanted to be a health care executive, still not knowing that hospital president was a possibility. Through mentors and sponsors giving me that opportunity, here I am.
I went to a historically black college in New Orleans called Dillard University. I often teased my grandmother, who raised me, that she was my first mentor and I was very much like her, wanting to be the boss.
I interviewed (for a Mayo Clinic training program) in Rochester, Minnesota. It was December. It was minus 30 degrees and I’m from Houston. When they asked, “Would you like to go to Florida or our site in Arizona or you like to stay here?” I said, “Please send me to Florida.” That’s how I landed in Jacksonville.
Things were going really well and I got married along the way. I learned my dad in Houston needed a double lung transplant. I needed to get back and was able to land a job. Lots transpired but I was able to be wooed back to Jacksonville. When the headhunter called about a vice president of operations job at Baptist, she said, “It’s Hugh Greene calling.” I thought I better take that call because I’d known the CEO to be the community go-to person for health policy.
Then I had the opportunity to help open Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center. That’s special to me because MD Anderson in Houston took care of my family.
When my husband and I are off together we enjoy traveling. We get back to Houston quite a bit. We are Jacksonville Jaguars season ticket holders. Teaching kindergartners and first-graders Bible stories at my church also brings me joy.
My husband is an actor, his second career. He had been a conductor with Amtrak and was in a train derailment and could not go back. He travels for commercials and film and absolutely loves it. You never know where he’s going to show up but he does a lot of work for Disney. He is often a Disney dad in the infomercials that you might see in the hotel rooms.