Cliff Thomas’ life in the medical field began early. His father was a hospital administrator and his uncle was the Chief of Staff and primary physician, so essentially he grew up in a hospital. At 10 he began working in the maintenance department, which evolved into many different jobs around the hospital.
At an early age Cliff recognized the passion his uncle had for being a doctor. He witnessed it over and over and noticed how his patients responded. That is when the seed was planted. As the years went on, jobs ranged from janitorial to x-ray, to the laboratory and finally to surgery. Cliff realized the best job in the hospital was that of the surgeons’. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1979, finishing medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch in 1984. He then went on to complete a 5 year General Surgery residency and subsequently became an Assistant Professor of Surgery. His emphasis throughout residency was GI surgery and included extensive experience with the weight loss procedure called the Vertical Banded Gastroplasty ( VBG ). This procedure was found to have a high failure rate and for that reason Dr. Thomas chose to not offer it as he began his private practice.
Cliff then began a hand surgery fellowship but it wasn’t long before he realized his real passion was GI surgery. He began his private general surgery practice in Nacogdoches Texas in 1990, where he continues to have a satellite office today. He chose Nacogdoches because after his experiences with hand surgery in Oakland California, he thought smaller was better.
Cliff became a fellow in the American College of Surgeons (FACS) and was Board Certified by the American Board of Surgery in 1990. 1990 also marked the beginning of laparoscopic surgery, and he quickly found that his skill set fit laparoscopic GI surgery. His advanced laparoscopic experience began in 1992, performing hiatal hernia repairs (Nissen Fundoplications). At that time there were only a handful of surgeons in the world performing this procedure. It continues to be a rewarding part of his practice and has many similarities with bariatric surgery.
By the late 1990’s Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass was being performed by several surgeons in the United States. After training with some of the most experienced surgeons in the country and doing a mini-fellowship at Parkland in Dallas, he launched his bariatric surgery practice in 2000. Since then bariatric surgery and reflux surgery has become the major emphasis of his practice. In November 2002 he began also performing the Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Band and in 2008 added the Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy.
It became clear that Nacogdoches could not support an active bariatric practice, so in 2005 Cliff began practicing in Houston. In that time Dr. Younan Nowzaradan and Dr. Cliff Thomas performed the largest gastric bypass and gastric sleeve in the world and can be seen in the TLC documentary, “The half ton Mom.”
Cliff has a passion for what he does, and wakes every morning eager to do more. He gets to use his skillset in surgery and then see and feel how that changes people’s lives for the better.