For 13 years Judy Thomas practiced critical care nursing. In the intensive care units and emergency rooms, she responded quickly to restore health to those fighting to stay alive. Imaginative and innovative since childhood, Judy recognized a problem in the hospital setting during that time period – poor documentation and coding of medical records, a major Medicare compliance problem. She would go on to develop a software program that would give hospitals a way to facilitate necessary improvements.
In 1991, she founded JA Thomas & Associates demonstrating the need for better documentation in hospitals.
Her first client, which would help grow her business exponentially, was the Seventh Day Adventist hospital where she had worked as a nurse. Over the next decade, JA Thomas would grow into a nationally recognized expert in healthcare compliance and documentation, working with more than 600 hospitals and more than 60,000 physicians.
Judy’s success, however, was not without challenges. She recalls an earlier period in her life filled with personal difficulties.
“My mother had died. There was such transition in my life,” she says. “I remember going into a grocery store and asking the manager if he could give me the vegetables that would be tossed at the end of the day. And for two months he would leave food behind the store for me to feed myself and my daughter. But through these tough times, I saw the faithfulness of God and how He would bring me through it all. And He did.”
With the overwhelming success and eventual sale of her company, Judy established a donor-advised fund at The Community Foundation in 2003. One of the first gifts she made through the fund was to the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which gave her business its start. The institution is near and dear to Judy’s heart and carries the same philanthropic philosophy as she does. “They don’t direct all the money they receive to the church. It’s not about converting anyone to Adventist. It’s about meeting the man where he is and not wanting anything in return.
After retiring in 2005 from JA Thomas, Judy has devoted her time and life to her charitable passions. The story of Judy’s giving spans countries, nationalities and faiths. She has traveled across the world, built friendships she never would have thought possible and has seen the hope and resiliency of people. She believes in empowering and building the capacity of organizations and individuals to make a difference. Her giving has done that and more.
“In Namibia, there was a community of Adventist Christians worshipping in a small hut. These 60 people had come together to collect one month’s salary from each individual. After one year, they had secured $45,000. They asked me to help them get a loan to buy a local church, which held 600 people, had a school and a family life center on 14 acres of land,” she says.
“Instead of just securing the loan and signing for it, I went back to my church and asked everyone to raise $100,000 for the people. I would then match their gift with an additional $100,000. Within four years, the local church had matched our $200,000. When I went back to visit, they had 360 people worshipping in the church, a school at full capacity and a family life center distributing vital information,” she says. “And last year, they were able to burn their mortgage.”
The impact of Judy’s giving can be felt internationally but nationally and locally as well. She has given generously to the Atlanta Mission, Cobb County Coalition for the Homeless and Emory-Adventist Hospital at Smyrna.
For Judy, philanthropy is giving of time and financial resources but it is also about giving hope and love to those who need it most. She gives because of her faith. She gives because of the great need throughout the world. And she gives because of the ties that bind us all.
“Giving, no matter how much, gives me a connection and understanding that our problems are very much the same no matter where we live. God has given me more than I need. And I want to use these gifts to be a blessing to others,” she says.