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Beyond the Board

Beyond the Board

Dr. William Thornbury, Glasgow Independent Schools

Kentucky School Advocate
January 2023

Q. You were first elected in 2018, why did you want to serve on the school board?  

Several people had asked me to be on it because I had young children, and I had said “no” twice. They finally said, ‘we aren’t leaving without your name on this paper.’ I was reluctant because of my obligations with my practice and service on several medical-related boards, including as president of the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure.

Q. But after doing your best to avoid it, you say you love being on the board.

I have found this to be one of the passions of my life. I take a half day off on Fridays and, unless I’m out of town, I spend it in the schools. I talk with the superintendent, principals, thank the physical plant, culinary and other support staff, meet with teachers. All my recreational reading now is in the field of education.

Q. You started your medical career as a pharmacist and then returned to school to become a doctor. Why did you make the change?

I was a third-generation pharmacist. In my last semester of pharmacy school at UK, we rounded with the medical team and I thought, ‘That’s what I have to do.’ But I went back home to rural Appalachia and practiced pharmacy for about five years, because I wanted to go back and serve. I went back to med school at Louisville. I chose primary care because I think it is the hardest job in medicine.

Q. In addition to those five years in Virginia, you studied at Harvard and had a surgical internship. What brought you to Glasgow?

The university was starting a residency program in primary care in Glasgow. I realized if I helped get the residency going, I would be making a difference long after I was gone because it would bring primary care doctors to south-central Kentucky. Most doctors practice within 80 miles of where they train. So we’ve had more than 20 years of putting young doctors into this area.

Q. You’ve also been a leader in telemedicine. Tell us about this.

I studied Toyota’s processes and engineering and then, when I looked at the healthcare system, I realized we had too many patients in our waiting room, mainly because about 30 percent of them were only there because an insurer required it. A mentor of mine had done work with computer-to-computer medicine. I told him I wanted to try it in Glasgow. It was terrible and took too long. When the iPhone came along in 2009, I built the first mobile-to-mobile telemedicine system in the world, with help of Western Kentucky University. I gave lectures at meetings around the world to medical groups about the shift this was going to bring: that brick and mortar would be replaced, somewhat by telemedicine. This was 10 years ago.  

Q. You were recently reelected to the board. What’s something you plan to help the district achieve in the next four years?

In the short term, it is to get our new primary school open by August. If it is done the way they tell us, it will be the finest primary school in the state, at least on the day it opens. The long-term goal is to decide on our strategic plan for education in our community. How can we keep Glasgow one of the finest educational areas in Kentucky so we can build a golden triangle in south-central Kentucky that mimics the Golden Triangle of Northern Kentucky, Lexington and Louisville? This has become a huge economic area and it is huge opportunity to bring Kentucky out of poverty.

Profession: Primary care physician with practice in Glasgow

Hometown: Grundy, Va.

Family: Wife, Amy; daughter Britton, 9, and son Chase, 8

Favorite subject: Chemistry and band (trumpet)      

Hobbies: Walking, reading, but, really, education has become my hobby.

Book recommendation: Stanford professor Carol S. Dweck’s “Mindset: The New Psychology for Success.” Her work is about how mindset is the most important factor in a child’s success. Also, books and talks by Harvard professor Tony Wagner “Creating Innovators” and Ted Dintersmith “What School Could Be.”

Interesting fact: We inherited my father-in-law’s 1955 factory red Chevrolet Imperial. He had 60 to 65 collectible cars. The Imperial is original and won the 2017 Chairman’s Award at the 2017 Concours d’elegance in Lexington.

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