December 10, 2020
Dr. Thomas R. White, a family physician committed to providing care to the citizens of his hometown, has been named North Carolina's 2020 Family Physician of the Year by the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians (NCAFP). The honor is the most prestigious award from the NCAFP, the state's largest specialty medical association, comprised of more than 4,200 members.
Dr. White practices at Hometown Direct Care in Cherryville, having had a tremendous impact on the health of the community by serving the city both within and outside the walls of his practice. While his practice setting and style have changed during his 32 years serving the people of Cherryville, Dr. White’s commitment has never wavered. For example, he has coordinated a comprehensive health and fitness program for the town’s firefighters. This effort led Dr. White down a unique clinical path, studying the increased incidence of both cardiovascular disease and cancer in firefighters. His findings led to a series of programs educating other physicians about the issue and even a presentation to the NC Legislature’s Justus-Warren Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Task Force.
This is just one small example of his legacy of community involvements. Dr. White has sponsored numerous athletic teams, quietly assisted community members with college tuition, and sponsored the Cherryville High School Male and Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year Awards. He was also an early member of the town’s Main Street Program, as the committee applied for and won a National Historic District designation. Dr. White has served on multiple local boards, including the YMCA, the local Education Foundation, the Citizen Against Drugs Program and the local Rotary Club.
Dr. White has served as a leader in the community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He developed a local call-in radio program to answer questions and problem solve about coronavirus concerns, teaming up with City Manager Jeff Cash on the weekly show. In addition, he recruited local seamstresses to make cloth masks and has provided those for his patients and neighbors. Finally, he has given out well over 100 “support your local business” gift cards to his patients to help local shops survive.
Several years ago, this year’s winner changed practice models returning to the tradition of independent physicians of the past. By changing to the Direct Primary Care model, Dr. White delivers personalized, accessible, and comprehensive care, utilizing much-longer visits to care for his patients in a holistic manner. He truly is there for his patients – randomly calling to check on their health and remind them that he is there if they need him.
One of the individuals that nominated Dr. White for the prestigious award, described him this way: “He is the embodiment of all that is right and noble in Family Medicine. His entire career has been based on the ideals of Servant Leadership: trust, integrity, humility, service, modeling, pioneering, empathy, and empowerment. As brilliant and energetic as he is, he could have been a medical school dean or a president of a large medical system. But instead, he chose to love and care for his friends and neighbors in his hometown. He truly thinks globally and acts locally.”
Dr. White is an Eagle Scout, having graduated form Cherryville High School and completing his undergraduate degree Magna Cum Laude at Duke University. He also graduated Alpha Omega Alpha from the Duke University School of Medicine and completed his residency training in family medicine at what was then Charlotte Memorial Hospital. He is a past president of the NCAFP and past president of the Southeast Lipid Association, one of the few family physicians to ever hold that role.