After many years without one, Culpeper County again has a pulmonologist providing local services.
Dr. Petra Thomas, a board-certified pulmonary disease specialist, set up shop last week at the Wellspring Specialty Services at Norvant Health UVA Culpeper Medical Center. And though not related to the COVID-19 pandemic, having a local lung specialist is a blessing for many.
“This was an opportunity that came across when I was looking for opportunities,” said Thomas, who sees patients at a rehabilitation hospital in Aldie in Northern Virginia as well.
In Culpeper, she’ll see patients on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. “Word hasn’t gotten out quite yet, but I’m sure when it gets out I’ll be quite busy,” Thomas said.
She graduated from Temple University of Medicine and completed residencies at Howard University and Washington Hospital Center. She’s also completed a three-year fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at George Washington University. In addition, she works with the Department of Labor in its Black Lung division, helping miners who have been exposed to toxic fumes.
“A pulmonologist, otherwise known as a lung specialist, takes care of all sorts of respiratory diseases,” Thomas said. “Those commonly known are asthma, COPD, pneumonia, pulmonary embolisms — anything lung related, lung cancer, smoking.”
Thomas looks back on her days of working with ICU patients and the critical moment she decided to take on a specialty. “[ICU] has a nice mix of all the specialties with a little bit of an adrenalin rush, which I found after 20 years I didn’t really need anymore. … Doing ICU for that long got to be a little bit much, lifestyles-wise,” she said. “Pulmonary is a natural outflow of critical care. I went into a pulmonary fellowship, loved it, did critical care and then joined a practice at St. Mary’s in D.C.”
Now, her focus is more on helping people by practicing everything from tele-medicine to in-patient procedures. “I was looking to get back into an office setting but not set up my own practice,” Thomas said. “I know my limits and I’d rather be here, provide a service and not have to worry about all the stuff that goes along with it.”
With more than 25 years of experience in her field, Thomas said her goals with her practice have always been to improve patient outcomes and improve quality of life while working through various processes. She encourages her patients to take an active — and responsible — role in managing their health challenges. It’s been a key component in her practice. Now, COVID-19, which affects the lungs more than anything else, has become another challenge.
“COVID right now is a big part of what I do,” she added. “It’s just the nature of the epidemic. Once this dies down, we’ll go back to doing our usual, but it’s definitely impacting everything I do.”
For more information about Dr. Thomas’ practice, visit www.wellspringhealthservices.com.