Since joining Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in March of this year, Gelise Thomas has made an immediate impact by creating programs and leading initiatives to help researchers understand their roles in helping to close the gaps in health disparities.
Thomas directs strategic diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA), and health disparities efforts in the Clinical and Translational Science Collaborative (CTSC), working with researchers across Cleveland’s healthcare institutions—such as MetroHealth, Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and the Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center—to provide education and resources needed to integrate DEIA into medical research.
Recognized as a “trailblazer” and a “standout” by her colleagues, Thomas was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business as one of the publication’s “40 Under Forty” local leaders for 2022.
Thomas graduated from The Ohio State University with a political science degree and earned a law degree from Cleveland State University. Before joining University Hospitals and transitioning to healthcare in 2019, she worked in economic development roles at MidTown Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission.
“Understanding and meeting the urgency of the work ahead of us in advancing health equity through research is both an opportunity and obligation that I don’t take lightly,” said Thomas. “This recognition affirms the importance and impact of our work in proximity to efforts led by other honorees focused on improving healthcare and implementing holistic solutions that address social determinants of health.”
Launching one-to-one consultations, spearheading a health equity educational series and participating in community events are just a few of the initiatives she has led in the short time she has been at the university to help raise awareness to change the current trajectory of health disparities.
“At the start of this new chapter in our CTSC, we embraced what we don’t know,” said Grace McComsey, principal investigator of the CWRU-based CTSC of Cleveland. “For a long time, we established that research is not inclusive or diverse, and, as such, has not widely benefited the community we serve—we still lack a clear understanding of how to fix these shortcomings. Thomas was hired to focus with us on finding solutions to ensure that through research, we improve the lives of all communities.”
Thomas, along with her fellow Crain’s Cleveland Business’ 2022 “Forty Under 40” cohort, were honored at a ceremony Nov. 21, and are featured in a recent issue of the publication.