UNC-Chapel Hill’s Unsung Hero Awards go to university staff members, faculty members, departments or entities that exemplify a steadfast commitment to inclusion.
UNC-Chapel Hill’s Unsung Hero Awards are annually given to two university staff members, faculty members, departments or entities that exemplify a steadfast commitment to inclusion. Through their everyday work and advocacy, awardees have made significant contributions to justice, equity and diversity, and have made a positive difference in the lives of others at Carolina.
“Since the moment he arrived at Carolina, Nate has helped lead the School of Medicine through important conversations and has made a positive impact on us all,” said School of Medicine Executive Dean Cristy Page, MD, MPH. “Whether our community comes together to discuss national tragedies or to share ideas on how to move forward together, Nate is there every step of the way. We are so happy that his important work is being celebrated and recognized.”
Thomas joined the School of Medicine in March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic and during a time of national reckoning with racially motivated violence. He quickly led a school-wide town hall with a panel of underrepresented faculty to provide space for the community to process current events and grieve. He quickly built a framework for elevating and enhancing equity work across the School of Medicine and restructured the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to encompass all of the School of Medicine’s related initiatives, including those focused on rural health and underserved populations.
Additionally, Thomas has led the effort to increase trainings and efforts focused on improving health equity and reducing health disparities; has developed and grown pipeline programs for professional development, mentoring and education; and has worked to ensure the School of Medicine’s community better understands the diverse experiences of people across North Carolina.
Thomas has more than 25 years of experience working with leaders in secondary and higher education, and is especially skilled at developing and implementing diversity, mentoring and leadership initiatives. He earned his doctoral degree in Ecological-Community Psychology from Michigan State University. He served as an executive diversity leader at the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine, the University of Kansas and at the University of South Florida Polytechnic. He is recognized for developing the Thomas Principles, a mentoring model designed to increase college student progression and graduation rates.