Monday, October 20, 2014
Debra Janine Thomas is an American figure skater and physician
Debra Janine Thomas is an American figure skater and physician. She is the 1986 World champion, two-time U.S. national champion and 1988 Olympic bronze medalist. Thomas was born in Poughkeepsie, New York. She grew up in San Jose, California where she started figure skating. She attributes most of her success to her mother who sacrificed to drive her over 100 miles a day between home, school, and the ice rink. Debi wanted to be a doctor from age 5, and now is a practicing orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hip and knee replacement. She represented the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club beginning in 1983, which launched her career. Debi was coached by Alex McGowan from age 10 until she retired from amateur competition at age 21. Thomas won both the 1986 U.S. national title and the 1986 World Championships; those achievements earned Thomas the ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year award that year. She was the first female athlete to win those titles while attending college full-time. She was the first African-American to hold U.S. National titles in ladies' singles figure skating. Thomas was a pre-med student at Stanford University during this time although it was unusual for a top U.S. skater to go to college at the same time as competing. After her figure skating career, Thomas went back to school to become an orthopedic surgeon. She graduated from Stanford University in 1991 with a degree in engineering and from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in 1997. Thomas followed this with a surgical residency at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences Hospital and an orthopedic surgery residency at the Martin Luther King Jr./Charles Drew University Medical Center in South Central Los Angeles.