The Heart of the Story

The Heart of the Story

My Improbable Journey as a Cardiologist

Joan L. Thomas


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Joan L. Thomas:
Dr. Joan L. Thomas is a retired cardiologist from Rochester, New York, where she healed hearts for 31 years. After finishing high school in the town of Port Washington on Long Island, New York, she headed upstate to earn an RN degree and a bachelor's degree in biology from Syracuse University. After working as a nurse for eight years, Dr. Thomas completed a nurse practitioner program and then worked in the cardiology clinic at SUNY Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse. In 1983, she earned her MD from SUNY Upstate Medical University and went on to an internal medicine residency and then a cardiology fellowship at the University of Rochester Medical Center. During her long career, she treated thousands of patients in her cardiology practice, improving their quality of life and in many cases facilitating a longer and more fulfilling life. Acknowledging the contributions of the women who preceded her in medicine, Dr. Thomas widened the path to ensure that the next generation of women would be called cardiologists rather than women cardiologists and be accorded the respect and financial remuneration commensurate with men in the profession. Throughout her career, she was a fierce advocate of financial equity and fair treatment for herself and for the women who would follow her in the profession. She also worked to educate other physicians and the public about the prevalence and treatment of heart disease in women. Dr. Thomas retired in 2021 and volunteers at Volunteers in Medicine, a large free clinic for individuals working without access to healthcare. She lives on Daufuskie Island off the coast of South Carolina with her husband, Clayton Miller, and a rescue dog named Zeus.