Ruth Thomas, M.D., Receives Inaugural National Women’s Leadership Award

By Lee Hogan

The award was established by the society’s Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Foundation to recognize current and future female leaders in foot and ankle orthopaedic surgery outside the U.S. and Canada.

“I am so happy to be honored as the first recipient of this award when there are so many others just as deserving, if not more so,” said Thomas.

Thomas’ connection to the Foot & Ankle society extends back to 1992 when she completed her fellowship in foot and ankle surgery at Campbell Clinic Orthopaedics in Memphis. Since then, she has served on and chaired multiple society committees, represented the society with the American Academy of Orthopaedics Board of Specialties and The American Orthopaedic Society’s Omega Foundation, conducted site visits to multiple countries, and traveled to Vietnam five times as part of the socieity’s medical outreach mission.

“In my opinion, Ruth was such an obvious choice to be the first recipient of this award,” said A. Holly Johnson, M.D., American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society Board of Directors member-at-large. “As one of the first female trailblazers in orthopedics and as a true humanitarian, Ruth embodies exactly what the Women’s Leadership Award is meant to honor.”

Thomas was director of foot and ankle surgery in the UAMS College of Medicine until her retirement in July, and has been an important part of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery for more than two decades. She still holds an adjunct position.

In addition to being a board-certified foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeron, Thomas has led a local event, Hearts2Soles, for homeless people in the Little Rock area since 2008. Hearts2Soles provides free medical foot care, shoes and socks to the homeless, working poor and disabled in central Arkansas.

She is also director of the Perry Initiative’s Arkansas programs for high school and medical students. The Perry Initiative provides hands-on outreach programs for young women to encourage them to enter careers in orthopaedics and engineering.

Thomas earned her medical degree and was a Barton Scholar at UAMS. She was only the second female to complete an orthopaedic residency at UAMS. Since 2003, she has been listed as a Best Doctor in Arkansas by Best Doctors Inc.

“Dr. Thomas has been crucial to the growth of our department, as well as the training of our medical students and residents at UAMS for many years,” said C. Lowry Barnes, M.D., chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. “We are so proud to see her hard work and dedication recognized by a premier orthopaedic society.”

She has lectured and presented internationally and been published in numerous journals. Thomas is a member of the Arkansas Orthopaedic Association, Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.