Thomas is originally from India and has lived in the United States since 1970. He has a master's degree in communications and marketing from Syracuse University in New York.
Thomas moved to the Imperial Valley two years ago from the Los Angeles area. He has worked in the health-care industry for 30 years.
Isidoro Romero, a member of the Clinicas board who led the ad-hoc committee, said Thomas was the committee's choice because of his experience with the agency.
Thomas was notified of his selection Tuesday, a day after the committee reached its decision.
Thomas, who said the salary he will earn still is under consideration, said he is looking forward to the new position.
"It's going to be a challenge," he said. "There are some issues that need to be addressed."
He added, "I would seek the cooperation of the community and the board very aggressively in the future administration of Clinicas."
Thomas added, "It will be hard to fill the shoes of Mr. Lerma, who has done a great job in the past."
Lerma resigned Feb. 28.
When asked why he resigned after 19 years, Lerma said the agency is in a strong enough financial position that he can step down and allow another person to take the reins. He said if the agency were struggling financially, he would not resign.
Lerma said there were some board members who had sought his resignation but they did not represent the board majority. Lerma has said the decision to resign was strictly his own.
Since 1982, Clinicas has grown from an agency with a $2 million annual budget to one with a budget of $15 million with seven clinics in the Imperial Valley and beyond.
Clinicas has more than 200 employees and in 2001 saw 42,000 patients at its clinics.
The full Clinicas board is expected to meet March 28 to discuss the search for a permanent director.
>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.