Dr. Claudia L. Thomas made history when she became the first Black woman orthopaedic surgeon in the United States in 1980. Today, Dr. Thomas is a partner in an all-Black orthopaedic practice and inspires others as a speaker, author and public figure.
Thomas was born in Brooklyn, New York, attending the famous High School of Music and Art in Harlem. She entered Vassar College, immersing herself in the Black Power Movement of the time. This period was influential for Thomas, igniting the drive to challenge barriers she would later shatter.
Thomas graduated from Johns Hopkins University of Medicine in 1975, then entered Yale University’s orthopaedic residency program. In 1980, she not only became the first Black woman to become an orthopaedic surgeon, she was the first woman to complete Yale’s prestigious program. Thomas returned to Hopkins in 1992, and served as part of its admissions committee in a bid to bring more diversity to the school. Her efforts proved fruitful as there was a spike in Black and female admissions during her time in the post.
In 2004, Thomas went into private practice with two former students and opened the Tri-County Orthopaedic Center in Leesburg, Fla. Since its opening, the all-Black practice has grown to six partners and continues to serve Central Florida.
The recipient of several accolades, Thomas was given the Diversity Award from The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeon in 2008. She travels about the country as an inspirational speaker.
Thomas also authored an autobiography, God Spare Life, in 2007. As noted in her book’s title, faith and spirituality figure prominently in Thomas’ life.