Christine Thomas, Ph.D. Tribute

We are sad to report that Christine Thomas, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurological Surgery and The Miami Project, who has been a researching neuromuscular weakness, fatigue, spasms and regeneration at the Miller School for more than 27 years, passed away this December after a long battle with cancer.  She was recruited to the University of Miami in 1990 to conduct basic and clinical research targeting spinal cord injury and to interface with a growing Miami Project research team and was promoted to Professor of Neurological Surgery in 2003.  Over the years, Dr. Thomas and colleagues conducted pioneering work on post-spinal cord injury (SCI) neuromuscular changes that led to the use of functional electrical stimulation protocols as a new and exciting rehabilitation tool.

“Dr. Thomas will be greatly missed as she was a dedicated colleague, mentor to many and outstanding medical researcher. I will always remember her sitting with SCI subjects surrounded by electrophysiological equipment as she accumulated data on signal motor unit recordings,” said Dr. W. Dalton Dietrich, Scientific Director of The Miami Project.

In addition to her studies clarifying mechanisms of muscle fatigue, Chris also conducted preclinical studies to investigate mechanistic questions. All of these studies were supported by federal and other funding agencies indicating the very high quality of her work and acknowledgement from her peers.

Chris was a very serious investigator who carefully analyzed her data and published in the best neurophysiological and neuroscience journals. Based on her many research contributions, Chris received many awards and was invited in 2016 to give the commencement lecture at her alma mater, The University of Otago in New Zealand. At that time she told graduates that “with new technology we have lots of data, new ways to process it, but these are just tools, and tools do not solve the problem. The difficult task is to understand what you see and to turn that information to some use”. She will be remembered for obtaining and critically reviewing enormous amounts of data during her clinical investigations and coming up with new hypotheses that challenged the field.  Dr. Thomas will be greatly missed, but has left us all with valuable collection of data and instructive observations on which the SCI field can continue to grow.