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A Tribute to Thomas Joas, MD, Friend and Colleague

Tom Joas’ career in the specialty of anesthesiology and affairs of medicine was truly extraordinary by any assessment but was characteristically understated by Tom himself. Gregarious, but thoughtful, and soft spoken, he represented us well here in California through the California Society of Anesthesiologists, and Medical Board of California and nationally through the American Society of Anesthesiology.

Tom and I began our anesthesia careers together as residents at UCSF in Bill Hamilton’s program just after the “summer of love”, a great time to be in San Francisco with a superb faculty with such luminaries as Stuart Cullen, John Severinghaus, Ted Eger, George Gregory, Sol Snider, Phil Larson, and Barrie Fairley. A veritable who’s who of academic anesthesia.

Tom was a year ahead of me as I recall and was a great mentor. After a few months I became aware of Tom’s involvement with CSA and ASA and I queried him about getting involved. There began my 25 year involvement with both organizations. After completing his residency Tom relocated to San Diego where he joined the “big group”, Anesthesia Services Medical Group, which involved some 170 anesthesiologists. But we maintained contact through many CSA and ASA meetings along with Larry Sullivan, Steve Jackson, Norm Levin, Art McGowan, Peter McDermott and many others. Unfortunately, Norm and Art have also recently passed away.

Tom loved one on one interaction with California legislators including Senators Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein, and House member Nancy Pelosi, but especially Pete Stark, an influential California legislator who had a loud voice in matters of health care as the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee when the Democrats ruled.

Tom’s illustrious career involved the following: he served on an astounding 37 medically related committees of various organizations, and was chair or president of 26. Among those achievements was president of the San Diego Medical Society, president of Anesthesia Services Medical Group (ASMG), president of the California Society of Anesthesiologists, and recipient of their Distinguished Service Award. Within the American Society of Anesthesiology he was instrumental in creating and developing the Political Action Committee, and chaired the Committee on Peer Review.

Authoring nine academic papers involving some of the original studies on forane and ethrane, he published in a variety of peer reviewed journals including Anesthesiology, the Canadian Anesthetists Society, and the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Not yet satisfied with his accomplishments, his interests turned to regulatory medicine and the Medical Board of California (MBC) serving for five years, and you guessed it, three years as president. During his tenure, the  MBC developed much needed standards of practice for office based anesthesia, plastic surgery, and mid wifery. All this time tom was unfailingly dressed to the 9’s complete with shined loafers, rep ties,  and button-down shirts. The ultimate preppy look.

Tom Joas was the quintessential “step up to the plate” kind of guy who then hit it out of the park in whatever endeavor he pursued. All without fanfare or accolades, just being Tom.

RIP my friend. You have had a great ride and made us proud.

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