While an undergraduate student in Henderson’s biology department, Thomas Saul, B.S. ’05, was taught to question everything. Although he hasn’t found all the answers, he has found that his Henderson education helped him to attain career goals he never thought he’d reach so fast.
Thomas is Interim Chief Operating Officer at Culpeper Regional Hospital, which is affiliated with the University of Virginia Medical Center. “It’s been a goal of mine to be the CEO at an academic medical center,” he says. “What I didn’t realize was how quickly it would happen.”
Thomas decided to attend Henderson because it was in his hometown and was a public university that offered the programs in math and science that he was interested in. He also liked the small class sizes and the personal attention he knew he would receive at a smaller school. “I knew I wasn’t going to be overwhelmed or be a nameless face in the crowd to my professors,” he says. It was that personal attention that led him to change from a math major to a biology major as a freshman. “I was taking Introduction to Biology with Dr. [Dennis] McMasters,” he recalls. “After the second test, I got a note that said, ‘You need to come talk to me,’ so I met with him and he suggested I consider a biology major.” Thomas took some more classes in the department and that was all the encouragement he needed.
Soon, Thomas was active in the Biology Club and vice president of the Chemistry Club, whose members regularly visited local secondary schools and did experiments for the students to help instill an interest in the sciences. He also presented research at an academic symposium on campus.
In the classroom, Thomas developed a strong academic foundation that would ease his transition to graduate school and the analysis skills that would serve him well in his future career. “My time at Henderson, specifically in the biology department, helped me develop critical thinking skills that continue to be an integral part of my work leading operations of the hospital,” he says. “From a biology background, you’re taught to question everything and seek out new information. You analyze and think about a lot of decisions. Those are the kinds of values that were instilled in me while I was at [Henderson].”
After graduating from Henderson cum laude, Thomas continued his education at the University of Iowa, where he earned a Master of Health Administration degree. Then he began work as an Administrative Fellow at the University of Virginia Medical Center and was soon promoted to Program Manager, a position he holds in conjunction with his current one as interim COO. He is responsible for the oversight of numerous areas in the Culpeper Regional Hospital, both medical and administrative, and acts as a business liaison between the university and the hospital.
Thomas also credits the relationships he formed with faculty on Henderson’s campus with helping him succeed professionally. “It’s those kinds of relationships that help students succeed long after they have left the Henderson campus,” he says. Thomas still keeps in touch with biology professors Dr. James Engman and Dr. Renn Tumlison whom he says have been instrumental in his success both as a student and now as a professional.