Dr. Stephen B. Thomas, director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity in the University of Maryland School of Public Health, was appointed to the Maryland Health Care Commission by Governor Martin O’Malley in June 2014. Established in 1999, the Commission is an independent regulatory agency designed to “plan for health system needs, promote informed decision-making, increase accountability, and improve access… to affordable and appropriate health care services.” The Commission is composed of 15 members, appointed by the Governor of Maryland, who serve a term of four years.
[Photo: Dr. Stephen B. Thomas]
Dr. Thomas, who is also a professor of health services administration, has played a leadership role in other state bodies focused on health care access and health disparities. He served as a member of the Maryland Health Quality and Cost Council Health Disparities Workgroup, which proposed the Maryland Health Improvement and Disparities Reductions Act. This legislation, passed in 2012, contained a provision for the creation of Health Enterprise Zones, which encourages access to health care in underserved areas through tax breaks and other incentives for primary care practitioners and community-based organizations.
The upcoming Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy Health Equity Festival which will offer $1 million worth of free state-of-the-art dental care, organized by the Maryland Center for Health Equity and Catholic Charities, reflects Dr. Thomas’ vision regarding access to health services. To be held September 5-6 at UMD, this dental clinic aims to provide free care to more than 1,000 underserved, uninsured, and underinsured adults.
An internationally recognized, African-American leader in minority health research and community engagement, Dr. Thomas has been a lead investigator of multiple studies investigating racial differences in health outcomes. His research focuses on how to address conditions from which minorities generally face poorer outcomes, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and HIV/AIDS. He also serves as co-principal investigator, along with Dr. Sandra C. Quinn, of the NIH initiative, “Building Trust between Minorities and Researchers.” Dr. Thomas will bring this background to the Maryland Health Care Commission and the effort to advance plans for a new health care delivery system in Prince George’s County, MD.