Five Questions for Dr. James D. Thomas, Director, Center for Heart Valve Disease

Northwestern Medicine
Cardiology August 07, 2014
Dr. James D. Thomas started on August 1 as the new director of the Center for Heart Valve Disease at Northwestern Medicine's Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. Formerly of the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Thomas also worked with NASA's space medicine program for more than two decades. We asked him five questions about medicine, space and his work with patients.
Why did you choose your specialty?

To be honest it grew out of a chance occurrence during my residency where I happened to inherit a number of patients at Massachusetts General Hospital. I had previously been planning on going into primary care, internal medicine, but they had such fascinating cardiology diseases, I was hooked. 

How did you get into space medicine and will that continue when you are here at Northwestern? 

That started close to two decades ago. I was involved early on in designing the echo machine that would go onto the space station and working closely with the NASA engineers that worked ultimately up in space. Since then I’ve continued to work with NASA, but most of my work will be with clinical valve patients. NASA is just a fascinating side opportunity.

What do you like most about being a physician? 

I like the fact no two days are ever the same. Every patient presents unique challenges. In cardiology, the vast majority of time we can really help people and have a successful outcome. That is very encouraging. I also love the to teach and to discover new things through research.

What is your philosophy for practicing medicine?  

One of my philosophies is always to involve the patient in decision making. It used to be physicians just dictated what patients should do. I think there are very few situations in medicine now that are completely black and white. It’s good to bring the patient into the decision-making process so they are comfortable with the choices being made. 

What do you think your patients should know about you?  

I would want them to know I think I'm approachable. They should be comfortable asking questions about their care. I’ll always try to answer their questions honestly to help them make the best choices.

To make an appointment to see Dr. Thomas, call (312) NM-HEART.
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