In honor of Veterans Day, we are sharing stories of our amazing doctors who have served as members of the U.S. military. These veterans now dedicate their time to treating our patients at Columbia Skin Clinic. We thank them for their service and appreciate everything they do for our patients every day.
Dr. Sean Thomas has served in many countries and helped people from all over the world. He knew he wanted to serve in the military after seeing different family members across multiple generations serve their country. After being deployed numerous times, Dr. Thomas says, “I now have a greater understanding of how a patient’s background, cultural influences, occupation and family setting affect their health.”
Dr. Thomas says military experience didn’t necessarily “change” him as a person but rather helped him develop in many ways. “I have a greater appreciation for the freedoms and opportunities that we have in America. I also have a lot of gratitude for the sacrifices of my fellow Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.”
While serving in the U.S. Army for 25 years, he earned rank as Colonel – Chief Department of Medicine at Fort Bragg. There, he oversaw a department with nine different ambulatory services, inpatient and critical care physicians, respiratory therapy and a sleep lab. His other positions included Chief of Dermatology Service, Family Medicine Faculty, Faculty Development Fellow, Battalion Surgeon for a Tank Battalion and Brigade Surgeon for the Division Support Command of the 1st Infantry Division. Dr. Thomas deployed to Nigeria, Kosovo, Turkey and twice to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has been stationed in Maryland, Georgia, Germany and North Carolina.
During his deployments, Dr. Thomas had the opportunity to diagnose and treat multiple tropical diseases ranging from cutaneous leishmaniasis and leprosy to deep fungal and atypical bacterial infections. He explains: “As a deployed field surgeon at the battalion and brigade level, I provided care for common conditions, and my caseload included many dermatology cases. This had a significant influence on my decision to pursue a dermatology residency. During some of my deployments, I provided critical care, emergency trauma care, prepared patients for evacuation to higher levels of care. I also assisted the on-call trauma surgeons in the operating room.”
Dr. Thomas says his biggest challenge while in the military was that resources were more constrained than many imagine. The shortage of physicians resulted in a relatively high operational tempo, deploying him five times in eight years. He goes on to say, “This was probably more challenging for my family, but my wife proved to be incredibly resilient and resourceful! I could not be prouder of my family and how they developed during my absences.”
The best part about serving in the military, according to Dr. Thomas, was the people he worked with daily and having the opportunity to provide medical care for military service members, their families and military retirees. He says he is grateful for the amazing opportunities he had to serve in foreign countries with international partners. When asked to advise doctors considering military service, he says, “It’s a decision that takes careful through and consideration. Military service can be challenging yet exceptionally rewarding. If you decide to service our country as a military physician, seek every opportunity to participate in ‘military unique’ experiences. Serve with aviation, airborne, air assault or mechanized units. If asked to deploy to another country, ‘Do it!’ Deployments are some of the most enriching experiences. I have always considered it a privilege to serve my country, our service members and their families.”
Dr. Sean Thomas combines his love of helping people and his passion for dermatology every day at Columbia Skin Clinic. He sees patients in the Columbia and Camden offices. Contact us today to make an appointment with Dr. Thomas.