Stark County's "Hardest Working Man in Dentistry" goes above and beyond to treat staff right and make a real difference in the community.
A quote on display inside the office of Mike Thomas, DDS says it all.
"Even the smallest act of kindness can be contagious. Spread kindness today."
If that's true, "Dr. Mike" might be solely responsible for a full-blown kindness epidemic in Stark County.
Dr. Mike joined Dr. Ronald Keilin's dental practice in 1992, and took ownership in 2000. Since then, Dr. Mike has dedicated himself to spreading kindness within his practice and throughout the community.
"Our approach, and all of us on staff know it, is threefold," said Dr. Mike. "Give our patients great care. Be a great place to work. Be great community partners. All of my professional focus is on these three goals."
The practice, at 1421 Portage Street NW in North Canton, includes 35 full- and part-time associates. Dr. Mike's wife, Julie, also practices dentistry at her office at 1437 South Main Street in North Canton.
"In terms of patient care, we strive to be accessible (evenings, weekends and 24 hours on-call), gentle and kind," said Dr. Mike. "We pride ourselves on working to provide creative treatment to best suit each individual patient.
"We provide complex care integrating a multi-disciplined approach in which we can provide cosmetic dentistry, periodontal and restorative care, implants, oral surgery and orthodontics. We also provide our own in-house financing."
The office has a homey appeal, sprinkled with Notre Dame and Ohio State trinkets, as Dr. Mike is the only Stark County dentist to have graduated from both universities. Beyond the décor, the staff, most of which has worked together more than a decade, is engaging and nice.
"We have consciously worked to bring in 'kind people,'" said Dr. Mike. "If a potential staff member's first inclination is to be kind and extend themselves to others, we can find a way to integrate them into our practice."
Dr. Mike also honors his staff by allowing flexible hours, cross training — which allows an employee to leave work to attend to family matters — reimbursing hair and nail care, and providing a weekly grocery shop runner.
Then there's community.
One community leader was recently asked if Dr. Mike was on a certain committee. He then asked, "Is there a committee Dr. Mike isn't on?"
Roll up Dr. Mike's sleeves, and spots might be visible. Leopard spots, that is.
Dr. Thomas is committed to his hometown of Louisville. He invested heavily in the football, basketball and baseball facilities. He serves on the school board, is the voice of the Little Leopards and chairs the Main Street Committee.
The Thomas family also was instrumental in saving the oldest tree downtown that had become an eyesore. It's now a beautiful landscaped and lighted carving of a leopard, complete with glow-in-the-dark green eyes.
Dr. Mike was the 100th president of the Stark County Dental Society (SCDS).
"We wanted to do something special to mark our centennial," said Dr. Mike. "I brought Jim Tressel in to speak and the Society raised $100,000."
The funds were donated to Mercy Medical Center's general dentistry residency program to establish Mercy's first dedicated fund and ensure continuance
of the program's good works.
Dr. Mike also plays a role in ensuring the underserved have access to quality dental care. He helped start the Leahy Dental Clinic (named after his grandfather) at the Canton Community Clinic and has served for 20 years as the volunteer dentist at the House of Loretto.
He was instrumental in starting the SCDS Charitable Foundation, and donated more than $300,000 in dental services to more than 110 veterans.
Dr. Mike also has served as chair of Stark State College board of trustees. He serves on Walsh University's advisory board. And he serves as president of the Notre Dame Club of Canton.
There's a chance Dr. Mike and Julie's son, Michael, will follow in the family footsteps. He's in his third year of dental school at Ohio State, and could join the family practice. Son, Philip, also is at Ohio State studying psychology and serves as the back-up long snapper for the Buckeye football team.
Dr. Mike's family, friends, staff, patients and the community have felt the impact of his kindness. And they've collectively payed
The need for kindness will always remain. If the quote in his office is accurate, there'll never be a shortage of kindness in Stark County, thanks to Dr. Mike.