She is most often introduced as figure skating's 1988 Olympic bronze medalist, an acknowledgement of a pinnacle in the career of Debi Thomas, athlete. Debi was crowned skating's World champion in 1986 and twice won the U.S. National Championship title in 1986 and 1988. She later captured three World Professional skating titles and entertained audiences as a frequent headliner in shows and tours, skating for four years with the popular Discover Card "Stars on Ice" cast.
These achievements represent only a part of Debi's identity, for she rarely has been content to pursue excellence one objective at a time. While gaining elite status in skating, Debi stubbornly maintained a grasp on educational goals, completing high school and enrolling at Stanford University to obtain a degree in engineering. She took a brief respite from her studies to win her Olympic medal in 1988, and graduated from Stanford in 1991. Her proudest achievement in skating occurred in 1986; during her freshman year at Stanford, Debi won both the U.S. and World Championship titles, a feat many said "couldn't be done". She became the first and only African American to hold both titles in ladies' singles figure skating, and was also the first black athlete to win an Olympic medal in the Winter Olympic Games.
On June 6, 1997, Debi graduated from Chicago's prestigious Northwestern University Medical School and in June 2005 she graduated from the Orthopaedic Residency Program at Charles R. Drew University in Los Angeles. She spent the next year working at King-Drew Medical Center as an attending physician specialist, teaching orthopaedic surgery residents while preparing for her written board exam. In July 2006, Debi began a one-year fellowship at the renowned Dorr Arthritis Institute at Centinela Hospital in Inglewood, California, for sub-specialty training in adult reconstructive surgery. In August 2007, she began a career as a sub-specialist in orthopaedic adult reconstruction at the Carle Clinic in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and later joined the UAP Clinic's Bone and Joint Center in Terre Haute, Indiana, where she specialized in total joint replacement. Her dream to have her own private practice in orthopaedic surgery became a reality in December 2010, when she moved to Richlands, Virginia, to start ORTHO-Xcellence, an affiliate of the Clinch Valley Medical Center in Richlands. Dr. Thomas is a specialist in simple and complex knee and hip replacement surgery.
Being a physician has not deterred Debi from utilizing her fame to help others. She recently took a trip to Nepal on a humanitarian mission to provide free knee replacement surgeries to women with arthritis who have no access or resources for that type of care. She is partial to children's and youth charities such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and participates in various celebrity golf tournaments, particularly for the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation, for which she also hosted a benefit skating show called "Skate for Life", featuring various World and Olympic medalists. She has served on the advisory board of Athletes Against Drugs and the U.S. Olympic Committee's Sports Medicine advisory board, and currently sits on the World Figure Skating Museum and Hall of Fame advisory board.
Debi was a celebrity representative for the U.S. Olympic Committee at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games, and was invited by President George W. Bush to join the presidential delegation representing the U.S. at the opening ceremonies of the 2006 Winter
Games in Turin, Italy. First Lady Laura Bush was the delegation leader. She also participated in various interviews and appearances at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.