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Black History Month: Baptist Health's first African American hospital president

Growing up in a Houston neighborhood challenged with crime and poverty, Nicole Thomas’ family wanted her to experience a better life.

Growing up in a Houston neighborhood challenged with crime and poverty, Nicole Thomas’ family wanted her to experience more beyond where they lived.

“I was the child of teenage parents,” Thomas said. Her grandparents stepped in to help raise her as a child. 

“My grandmother was my first mentor and she was very clear, that I was going to do big things.”

Thomas attended a magnet high school that had a focus on healthcare professions but had no idea she was laying the foundation for her future. 

Being the first in her family to attend college, Thomas studied public health with an emphasis in administration at Dillard University in New Orleans.

“I didn’t want to disappoint anybody,” Thomas said. She desired to lead a health care organization at a young age. She spent 20 years after graduating, working in healthcare administration.

In 2011, she reached her goal of becoming Baptist Health’s vice president of operations and specialty services.

“It was a wonderful, wonderful privilege to serve,” Thomas said.

At Baptist, she was promoted in 2014 to senior vice president of specialty services with oversight over neurosciences, orthopedics and oncology.

By 2016, she reached another milestone as the first black female to hold the title of hospital president at Baptist Health,

“I was ecstatic that I would have the opportunity, because with title and position also comes responsibility,” Thomas said.

As an effective leader with a deep commitment to health care, Thomas had primary executive responsibility for the Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Now, as the hospital president of Baptist south, she continues to serve as a role model for many.

“It’s not about where you start,” Thomas said. “The idea is that I might be the first, but I definitely don’t want to be the last.”

Thomas serves on The Salvation Army of Northeast Florida's Advisory Board and member of the 2013 Leadership Jacksonville Class.

She also was the first chapter president and served on the board of directors of the North Florida Chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives. 

She has been honored for her community advocacy and leadership work, being named a Woman of Influence by the Jacksonville Business Journal in 2014 and receiving a Women in Business Award from the Jacksonville Women's Network in 2015.

Thomas also received the National Women of Achievement Profiles of Prominence in 2008 and the 2003 American College of Healthcare Executives Regent's Young Healthcare Executive Award.