Debi Thomas, Olympic skater and surgeon
*Debi Thomas was born on this date in1967. She was an African American figure skater, and is a surgeon and community activist.
Thomas was born in Poughkeepsie, New York. As a young girl she always wanted to be a doctor. Thomas picked up a world figure skating championship and two national championships during her freshman year at Stanford. She then postponed school for a year to train for the 1988 Winter Olympics. During this time the engineering major was working toward what she says has been her goal all along: to become an orthopedic surgeon. “My medical interest has always been strictly in orthopedics,” Thomas said “I guess that’s because I have a kind of mechanical mind and I also like interacting with people. Orthopedics is a good mix of the two.”
As the first African American to win a medal at the Winter Olympics in Calgary she skated to the music of Bizet's. Also while a pre-med student at Stanford University, Thomas won the 1986 U.S. National and World Figure Skating titles, becoming the first and only African American to hold those titles. She was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2000. Thomas married Brian Vander Hogen in 1988 in Boulder, Colorado. After their divorce, she married a sports attorney, Chris Bequette, in 1996. They had a son named Christopher Jules "Luc" Bequette before divorcing. During this time, Thomas went back to school to become an orthopedic surgeon. She graduated from Stanford in 1991 with a degree in engineering and from Northwestern University Medical School 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. She was practicing in Terra Haute, Indiana. She and fiancé Jamie Looney now live with his two sons, Ethan and Austin in southwest Virginia. Thomas, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority was involved in the figure skating world as a frequent committee member and judge.
Thomas was diagnosed with bipolar disorder by April 2012. In 2015, reports showed that she was living in a bed bug-infested trailer in the Appalachian Mountains with her Looney who was struggling with anger and alcohol issues. Thomas said that she was "broke" and had lost custody of her son in 2013. She was featured an episode of the television series, Iyanla: Fix My Life, on the Oprah Winfrey Network.