Dr. Thomas Black, Regional Medical Director at Baylor Scott and White Emergency Hospitals – a partner of Emerus Holdings Inc. – has been named a 2018 Health Care Hero by the Fort Worth Business Press.
He will be among honorees at the 2018 Health Care Heroes event taking place at 6:30 p.m., Feb. 8 at the City Club of Fort Worth, 301 Commerce St., in Fort Worth.
Two decades ago, Black was serving in the United States Navy as an E-5 petty officer second class electronics technician on a guided missile destroyer in the Persian Gulf. It was a life-changing and challenging job that helped fulfill his deep commitment to serving his country and humanity.
While deployed in the Persian Gulf, Black was assigned to a team that boarded vessels looking for contraband being exported from Iraq. On one occasion, his ship intercepted a boat that had been afloat at sea without fuel and supplies for a prolonged period.
“We were struck by the state of the crew, all of whom were severely dehydrated and emaciated from malnutrition,” Black says. “The gravity of the situation, and the mortality of the individuals on board, resonated with me. It was in that instant that I knew medicine was my calling.”
A 13-veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, Black pursued this calling with all the passion, purpose and determination that, today, allows him to be a difference maker in his community as a leader on the front lines of health care. The Fort Worth Business Press selected its 2018 Health Care Heroes for their excellence in the medical community and are judged based on nominations from those in the profession and the business community.
As a physician, Black is board certified in emergency medicine. He oversees the North Texas Region and manages the operations and practice of the group’s 65 physicians throughout eight hospitals. Prior to joining Baylor Scott and White, he practiced as a partner at Leading Edge Medical Associates in Longview, Texas, and assisted with the emergency room needs of several East Texas hospitals.
His colleague, Dr. James Nichols, says under Black’s guidance, the Dallas/Fort Worth Region has become the company leader in patient satisfaction and through-put metrics.
“He is constantly brainstorming ways to improve even more,” Nichols says. “He refuses to rest on his laurels, but, rather, welcomes the challenge of delivering excellent, efficient health care, given the inevitable constraints facing us all.
“His work ethic and attitude are infectious and serve as an excellent template for the newer doctors in our group, while his thirst for knowledge and his dynamic interpersonal skills make Tom a very rare gem in the health care industry. I consider it an honor and privilege to be a contemporary and colleague of Dr. Thomas Black.”
Black, in turn, credits a former colleague, Dr. Rob Dickson, with guidance and mentorship that greatly helped his career.
“He inspired me to consciously address mental health in our profession,” Black says. “In addition to the highs of successfully treating patients, physicians – particularly in the emergency room – experience the lows of witnessing tragedy, abuse and even death. That, coupled with long hours and the general pressures of the business and financial pressures, can take its toll, making this career unsustainable. Through this understanding and Rob’s inspiration, I really focus on creating an environment where these strains are addressed and/or minimized, if possible. Rob is now the EMS medical director for Montgomery County near Houston, and we keep in touch and share ideas on a regular basis.”
Black understands the profession’s challenges all too well.
“Throughout my career, I’ve personally known four physicians who have committed suicide and countless physicians who have struggled with substance abuse in an attempt to simply decompress from the stressors of our chosen field,” he says. “There are many wonderful aspects to being a physician: Great income and a wonderful living, just to name two. However, as with any high-stress profession, particularly those who care for others, we must address mental health to ensure the quality of life for the professional and the quality of care for the patient.”
An acknowledgement of these workplace stressors is one reason Black and his brother, Tim, former chief operations officer of Great Wolf Lodge Resorts, in 2016 co-founded an investment company, Napali Capital, which specializes in multifamily housing. The company provides an avenue to fulfill his desire to provide those in his field, as well as others, with the opportunity to grow their personal wealth, allowing for better work/life balance.
“It is an attempt to alleviate at least the financial aspect of the stress outside the ER,” he says. “The company has been an integral part of educating physicians and financially giving back in communities.”
Despite the challenges, for those seeking to enter the health care field, Black describes it as a “wonderful profession,” filled with inspiring moments.
“I’m inspired by the efforts of my peers to help those who come through our doors, whether it be doctors, nurses, administrative staff, even maintenance,” he says. “Everyone plays a part in creating an environment for a better and more sustainable practice environment.
“Search your soul deeply for why you want to choose this pathway in life. Take time to find out who you are as a person, so that when you begin your training and practice, you are solid in your foundation.”
Black received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Texas. He received his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, where was selected as a member of Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society and graduated with research honors. He then completed his residency at Indiana University Emergency Medicine Residency Program in Indiana.