Thomas Griggs, MD, ’69 is a problem solver. Never content to sit and wait for others, if he sees a need, he jumps in to meet it. If he has the training, all the better; if not, he’ll make sure he gets it.
This was the attitude that led him to start the South Orange Rescue Squad in 1971 after he witnessed a gap of emergency medical services available in the community. One of the early members of the rescue squad was Jane Brice, MD ’94 who joined the group during her undergraduate days at UNC.
Now chair of the UNC Department of Emergency Medicine, Brice said she often shares a piece of Griggs’ advice with students and trainees.
“People would always ask Dr. Griggs, ‘when do you know you’ve done enough for a patient?’” Brice said. “He’d always say, ‘You have to do everything you can until your conscience is cleared and you can go to sleep at night. That’s when you’ve done enough.’”
Another one of Griggs’ lessons could be considered his mission statement.
“He’s told me that if you’re just taking care of a single patient and not thinking about the community as a whole, then you aren’t doing enough,” Brice said.
Griggs’ accomplishments could easily be split between those of his academic career and the accolades he earned during his incredible career as a public servant.
A native North Carolinian, Griggs earned his medical degree from UNC in 1969. After residency at Johns Hopkins and fellowships back at UNC, Griggs joined the School of Medicine faculty in 1975. In 1991 he was named chief of the division of cardiology, serving in that capacity for three years. A dedicated researcher, Griggs served as director of the Francis Owen Blood Research Laboratory at UNC for more than 25 years.
As the consummate public servant, Griggs has helped to meet the needs of his community and his state.
In addition to his years as medical director of the South Orange Rescue Squad, Griggs became a member of the Orange Grove Fire Department and remains an active member, still responding to emergencies. In 1980, the North Carolina Fireman’s Association honored him with their North Carolina Fireman of the Year award.
Griggs is a sworn law enforcement officer, joining the Chapel Hill Police Department as a volunteer officer. He also serves other public servants. In 1996, he created the medical office of the State Highway Patrol and served as director until his retirement in 2013. In this role, he provided medical oversight for the Highway Patrol’s training programs and medical advice for officers who had been injured in the line of duty.
In nominating Griggs for this award, Wake County EMS’ Deputy Medical Director, Jefferson Williams, MD, MPH, called Griggs “the public servants’ doctor.”
Though officially retired, Griggs can’t sit on the sidelines. He currently serves as an adjunct professor in the department of Emergency Medicine, providing his expertise to the next generation of EMS physicians.
“He’s the role model we should all try and live up to,” Brice said.
In recognition of his exceptional service to the School of Medicine and the people of North Carolina, we are proud to present the Distinguished Faculty Award to Thomas Griggs.