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Community Leadership Award Honorable Mention: J.R. Thomas

Offering a supporting role

The philanthropic work of J.R. Thomas, CEO of MedSynergies, has benefited everyone from military families, to aspiring healthcare professionals to the healthcare industry in general throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth region.

But for Thomas, 48, named an honorable mention in Modern Healthcare's inaugural Community Leadership Award program, perhaps none of his philanthropy has been as personal as his efforts on behalf of young people with inflammatory bowel disorders.

Through Thomas' leadership, MedSynergies 13 years ago launched Camp MaGic, now operated by the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America, which provides an opportunity for children with these disorders to enjoy summer camp. “I have the disease, so it was pretty easy for me to get involved,” he says. “The kids have the ability to act like normal kids—fish, swim, ride horseback.”

He's particularly touched by how well the kids treat one another, particularly at times when the gastrointestinal disorders lead to uncomfortable, upsetting situations that could lead to ridicule from other children and teens who haven't lived with it themselves. “The best of human nature occurs at Camp MaGic,” Thomas says.

On behalf of military veterans, MedSynergies, a healthcare consulting firm, has established Allies in Service, an attempt to hire veterans. The firm has made a specific commitment to fill at least 15% of the 500 positions the company expects to add through 2013; thus far, they're above their goal, at 17%, having hired 44 veterans in the past six months. “We're trying to find people who can contribute to our business, and have a job and a career,” Thomas says.

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Thomas' philanthropic efforts also have helped current service people and their families. The Patriot Support Initiative, connected with the existing Allies in Service program headed by legendary Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, encourages MedSynergies' employees to create and send care packages to colleagues and their families. They can also pay $2 into the fund for the privilege of wearing jeans to work on a Wednesday, which has led to $10,000 in donations. “Roger Staubach is an icon in the military for what he's done,” Thomas says. “The fundraising internally has done well and continues to do well.”

At the encouragement of fellow business leaders, Thomas also has become involved in the Dallas County Community College District, helping launch a Health Careers Resource Center that's created an online one-stop shop for career training. Thomas estimates the district has more than 20,000 students pursuing healthcare-industry careers.

“We need educated, mature young people to support your company,” he says. “One, it's the right thing to do. Two, it helps us because we have better employees.”

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