New Life for a Retired Neurologist


By definition, a neurologist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the complex nervous system, central and peripheral, including the brain and spinal cord. What can’t be so easily defined is all that drives Dr. Thomas Wallace, KM (Knight of Malta), to joyfully and tirelessly serve at the Clinic day in and day out. Dr. Tom, as he is affectionately known, will say it’s simple and tell you that everything is done for, through and with Our Blessed Mother Mary to whom he has completely devoted his life. “You can’t live without her” and “what a way to live” are what he readily and passionately conveys with a big grin.

Dr. Tom’s journey began a number of years ago with his education at Indiana University — BS in Anatomy and Physiology in 1952, followed by his Doctor of Medicine in 1955. By 1960 he completed his residency in Internal Medicine and Neurology at the Cleveland Clinic and in 1965 became Board Certified in Neurology. Dr. Tom also served for several years as a Captain in the Army Medical Corps. And had a private practice for many years, after which he retired and so would have been his opportunity and time to practice medicine.

After Mass one day In 2014, Dr. Tom relates that he was approached by a Herman Carmassi, KM, a former Clinic board member, about coming down to the Clinic. Dr. Tom’s pastor, Rev. Robert McCann of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Oakland, was also part of that initial conversation, or you might say persuasion. The experience of serving at the Clinic was sealed for good after Dr. Tom’s first trip to Lourdes the same year. Then in 2015, Dr. Tom officially began his journey towards membership in the Order of Malta, and he was invested as a Knight of Magistral Grace in 2017.

Through his work at the Clinic and on the annual Lourdes pilgrimages, Dr. Tom exemplifies serving “our Lords, the sick and poor.” He loves the fact that there are no barriers between him as a medical provider and the patients he sees and treats. No money is exchanged, there is no billing, no reimbursements to deal with, nothing — not even an electronic medical records program which most medical providers spend their time typing away at and looking at a screen while trying to talk with (“talk at” might be more appropriate) or listen to their patient. Nothing to interfere with the direct doctor and patient relationship.

Another benefit is networking with an incredible group of fellow medical providers — doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses with various backgrounds, specialties and training. If Dr. Tom is not with a patient, he is the “Consultation Room” which doubles as a kitchen lunch/break room, meeting room and locker room — the place for providers and staff on duty to congregate. Real consultations take place between the different medical specialists and providers in between sips of coffee and a quick bite — this room is central station for the Clinic’s daily flow of activities.

“The Order of Malta started with and is all about that first pilgrim hospital in Jerusalem” says Dr. Tom. He shares that intensely deep spiritual connection in being able to do hands on work and continuing to fulfill the mission of the Order so many years later. “We are part of what was started almost 1,000 years ago and are still treating patients.” 

“Our Blessed Mother keeps me here” says Dr. Tom with his winning smile and a twinkle in his eye.

PeopleJared Gibbons