James Thornton, M.D.

  • Ellen L. Heck Chair in Tissue Transplantation
  • Plastic Surgery
  • Skin Cancer Reconstruction


James Thornton, M.D., is a Professor of Plastic Surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center, where he teaches plastic surgery residents about facial and nasal reconstruction.

Dr. Thornton earned his medical degree at UT Southwestern Medical School and also completed his general surgery residency here. He completed his plastic and reconstructive residency at Emory University.

He is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and is a member of the American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons, the American Society of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeons, and the AO North America (Craniofacial Faculty).

Dr. Thornton has published a textbook and numerous articles about nasal reconstruction and he lectures nationally about nasal and facial reconstruction. His research has been published in Annals of Plastic SurgeryPlastic and Reconstructive Surgery, and the Journal of Craniofacial Surgery, among others.

In 2018, he was named a Super Doctor by Texas Monthly as well as being recognized as a Castle and Connolly “Top Doctor” for the last decade.

Personal Note

Dr. Thornton is a retired Captain in the U.S. Navy reserve. He served for twenty-five years in both active and reserve duty as a squadron flight surgeon.

He lives in Dallas with his wife and six children. Dr. Thornton is a CrossFit instructor and enjoys coaching classes at CrossFit Medical District. He is known for his intensity and his dry sense of humor. 

Meet Dr. Thornton

Specialist in Reconstructive Surgery after Skin Cancer

James Thornton, M.D., is an expert in Mohs reconstruction and works closely with dermatologists who surgically remove common skin cancers, such as melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.

“My surgical specialty is soft tissue facial reconstruction,” Dr. Thornton says. “I believe that by focusing on one specific area of plastic surgery, I am able to perfect surgical techniques that can restore normal appearance after skin and soft tissue resection from facial cancer and trauma.”

"At UT Southwestern, we use an integrated approach to surgery. I work in close conjunction with the Mohs surgeons, so the patient is not just moving from one specialty to another. We are embracing a patient’s skin cancer care, from the beginning to the end.”

Dr. Thornton uses the most advanced, up-to-date techniques available today for soft tissue reconstruction. He has performed thousands of operative cases on a wide variety of soft tissue facial defects and remains actively involved in publishing the results of his latest techniques as well as teaching residents.

He is passionate about patient care, and his own three-pronged approach. First, Dr. Thornton is committed to treating patients as if they are members of his family. He recommends care just as he would for his own family.

“Second, I believe in ready access to a physician. I do not believe in putting up obstacles between the patient and the physician. Every patient receives my cell phone number and is welcome to call me at any time during their postoperative care,” he says.

Finally, Dr. Thornton is firmly committed to working with patients, as long as they need his expertise. He supports patients until a mutually satisfactory result is achieved, no matter how difficult the reconstruction.

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Education & Training
  • Residency - Emory University Hospital (1997-1999), Plastic Surgery
  • Residency - Parkland Health and Hospital System (1993-1997), General Surgery
  • Internship - Parkland Health and Hospital System (1989-1990), Surgery
  • Medical School - UT Southwestern Medical School (1985-1989)
Professional Associations & Affiliations
  • Jurkiewicz Society; Parkland Surgical Society
  • Fellow of the American College of Surgeons
  • AO North America Maxillofacial Faculty; American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons
  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons; Board Certified Plastic and Cosmetic Surgeons of Dallas; Texas Society of Plastic Surgeons
  • American Medical Association; Texas Medical Association; Dallas County Medical Society
Honors & Awards
  • D Magazine Best Doctor 2020-2022
  • US News & World Report 2011-2018, Best Doctor
  • Texas Monthly Super Doctor 2011-2018
  • Plastic and Reconstructive Journal Award 2018, Best Head and Neck Reconstruction Paper
  • Castle Connolly Medical, Ltd. 2006-2018, Top Surgeon
  • Guide to America’s Top Surgeons Award 2006-2018, Top Surgeon
  • UT Southwestern Medical Center Department of Plastic Surgery, (2011, 2015), Teacher of the Year
  • Top Doctor - Plastic Surgery 2011, Redbook Magazine, October
  • UT Southwestern Medical Center Department of Plastic Surgery 2010, Mentorship Award
  • National Defense Medal, (2003, 1990), Department of the Navy
  • Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal 2003, Department of the Navy
  • Armed Forces Reserve Medal with M Device 2003, Department of the Navy
  • UT Southwestern Academic Achievement Award 1996
  • UT Southwestern Resident Training Award 1995
Books & Publications

Clinical Focus

  • Skin Cancer Reconstruction

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Q&A by Dr. Thornton