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. In 1988, Thomas married Brian Vanden Hogen, a fellow college student. They later divorced and in 1996 she married former University of Arkansas football player Chris Bequette. She has a son, Christopher Jules ("Luc"), born in 1997.
After figure skating 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 is currently practicing in Terra Haute, Indiana.
She still remains involved in the figure skating world as a frequent committee member and judge.