DALTON, Ga. – Hamilton Medical Center Physician Don Thomas, MD, received one of the Georgia Hospital Association’s (GHA) highest honors, the Distinguished Service Award. The award was presented to Thomas at the association’s annual convention Nov. 10 in Savannah. He was recognized for his more than five decades of service to the residents of Dalton and surrounding communities.
As a physician and member of the medical staff of Hamilton Medical Center since 1960, Thomas has provided care to people in his community for more than five decades. He has served in several leadership roles during his time at the hospital, including president of the medical staff and chief of medicine. He has also served on numerous medical staff committees, including Home Health Care, Industrial Health and Infectious Disease. In each role, he has worked vigorously to ensure access to high-quality medical services.
Beyond caring for individuals as a physician, Thomas has also been especially influential in state politics. In 1997, he was elected to Georgia State Senate District 54, representing Hamilton Medical Center and its community. He served in the General Assembly for 14 years, working tirelessly to advocate for the health and safety of Georgians.
During his time in the State Senate, Thomas served as chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, Secretary of the Education and Youth Committee and as a member of the Appropriations, Ethics and Rules Committee. He brought public attention to health care needs and led efforts to bring positive health care changes to Dalton and the state.
In addition to his many legislative accomplishments, Thomas sponsored two bills of particular note during his senate service. First, seeing the ill effects of smoking, he worked on the passage and enactment of the Georgia Smokefree Air Act of 2005, which guarantees the right of nonsmokers to breathe smoke-free air. Next, Thomas further ensured citizens’ safety in automobiles with a bill that amended the Georgia seat belt law to require seat belts in pickup trucks.
Board certified by the American Board of Family Practice, Thomas continues to practice and care for residents in the Dalton community.
“Dr. Thomas has made an indelible impact on health care, not only as an outstanding, dedicated physician, but also as an extremely well-respected Senator,” said GHA president and CEO Earl Rogers. “During his time in the legislature, he was an ardent voice for the wellbeing of Georgia’s citizens. He is a most-deserving recipient of this award.”
Candidates for this annual award are hospital trustees or community leaders who have made significant contributions to improving health care in Georgia.
Established in 1929, GHA is the state’s largest trade organization of hospitals and health systems providing education, research and risk management services to its more than 170 hospital and health system members. Additionally, it represents and advocates health policy issues benefiting Georgia’s citizens before the state legislature and U.S. Congress as well as before regulatory bodies.
Photo: From left are GHA Chair Candice Saunders, president and CEO of Wellstar Health System and Don Thomas, MD, recipient of the Georgia Hospital Association Distinguished Service Award.