Why a hand surgeon who treats pro athletes took new position at Kettering Health

Dr. Thomas Graham joins Kettering Health  as senior vice president and chief innovation and transformation officer.
Dr. Thomas Graham joins Kettering Health as senior vice president and chief innovation and transformation officer.

Credit: Courtesy

Credit: Courtesy

Kettering Health welcomed established orthopedic hand surgeon Dr. Thomas Graham as senior vice president and chief innovation and transformation officer.

The Ohio native is best known for his work with over 2,000 professional athletes throughout the country but has also cared for patients as a physician and executive. Prior to joining Kettering Health, he worked at NYU Langone Health for five years holding several positions including director of innovation and strategy, associate dean for enterprise innovation and co-directed their sports health program.

Since he was 8 years old, Thomas said he knew he wanted to be a hand surgeon after he watched a presentation on open heart surgery performed by Dr. Michael DeBakey.

“And of course, I didn’t get the memo that I was supposed to be watching this automaticity of the heart beating. I watched the ballet of these unbelievable deft hands over the heart operating,” Thomas said. After that moment he worked towards his goal of becoming a hand surgeon.

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In his new position he will focus on defining and interpreting the creative, innovative culture at Kettering Health as it relates to improving patient care. It’s no secret that the Dayton area doesn’t have a professional or major sports league but that wasn’t going to stop Thomas from coming to the area.

“Just as Kettering is a destination for care for a lot of things, I wanted to make sure it was the national destination for the care of the professional athlete,” he said.

Thomas has been a surgeon for 30 years and specializes in complicated reconstruction after trauma, complex elbow disorders, and congenital hand surgery. He got his start at Cleveland Clinic in the 90′s and would later return to the organization as their chief innovation officer and vice chairman of orthopedic surgery.

“He always strives to be the best at what he does,” said his wife CeCe Graham. “Success for him is not the kind of car you drive but success in relationships and the importance of his work.”

Thomas has only been in the position at Kettering Health since late May, but injured players have traveled to Dayton to be seen by him. In the past he worked as a team physician for the Cleveland Indians for over 20 years.

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“His demeanor as a physician, especially as good of a wrist, hand and elbow surgeon as he is, he is incredibly calm, confident, but in an unassuming way with a great deal of humility,” said Vice President of Medical Services for the Cleveland Indians Lonnie Solof.

While Thomas is a physician executive to some, he’s a husband, a father and an innovative thinker according to his childhood sweetheart CeCe.

The two met as children in East Liverpool where they attended school together until Thomas went off to college. After reconnecting during a holiday visit, they were soon engaged, married, and had two daughters.

“He’s a great husband and a great father but he’s so many things to so many people,” CeCe said.

In his spare time, he enjoys golf, travel, outdoor activities, and anatomic drawing.