Thomas receives National Safety Award

Dr. Eric Thomas

Recognizing his more than 13 years at the forefront of patient safety, Dr. Eric Thomas, associate professor of internal medicine, has received the 2007 John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality Award for Research.

Established in 2002 by the National Quality Forum (NQF) and the Joint Commission, the awards honor the memory of John M. Eisenberg, M.D., former director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a member of the founding board of directors of the NQF, and an advocate for health care quality improvement. The awards recognize major achievements of individuals and organizations in improving patient safety and quality.

“In the field of health care quality and safety, the Joint Commission and National Quality Forum are two of the most influential organizations in the United States,” Thomas said.  “Furthermore, John Eisenberg was universally respected and admired for his work to improve health care delivery. It is therefore a great honor to receive this recognition. The award is also an acknowledgment of the outstanding mentors and collaborators I’ve worked with, and of the support I’ve received from UT and the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System.”

As principal investigator of the Medical School’s Center of Excellence for Patient Safety Research and Practice, a $7 million program project grant funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Thomas has studied the cause and effects of medical errors and applied the methods from aviation safety to the health care arena.

“Dr. Thomas’ broad-based patient safety and quality research activities have focused on the epidemiology of errors and adverse events, teamwork, incident reporting, measuring and improving cultures of safety, claims file analysis, pediatric patient safety, geriatric patient safety, and organizational learning,” wrote the awarding committee. “His work has been featured in leading quality and safety journals and other peer reviewed publications, and his expert opinion and research findings have been relied upon by the Institute of Medicine, the World Health Organization, and the Institute for Healthcare Excellence, among others.”

Thomas’ work in patient safety spans all areas of the Medical School’s mission -- serving as principal investigator or co-investigator on 18 grants; creating clinically applicable tools, such as a safety culture survey; and educating and mentoring others to conduct patient safety research.

Dr. Ken Shine, vice chancellor for health affairs of the UT System, who nominated Thomas for the award, wrote, “He has made a significant and lasting contribution to improving patient safety and quality.”

 -D. Brown