The Retirement of Dr. Lovell A. Jones and Its Impact on the TMC

Francis Page Jr. | 5/23/2013, 8:22 p.m. | Updated on 5/23/2013, 8:22 p.m.
Here is something you will not find in any of the mainstream news outlets. I just recently learned that a ...
Dr. Lovell A. Jones

Here is something you will not find in any of the mainstream news outlets. I just recently learned that a good friend and colleague is about to announce his retirement, if he has not done so already by the time this article comes out. It is something that we should all be concerned about, because ultimately his retirement will impact all of us if someone does not fill his shoes. What concerns me more, as you will see from the accomplishments and honors bestowed on this individual, is the lack of true recognition of what he has accomplished in his own hometown. I am wondering if it is because his success points out a serious flaw that we don’t want to admit. That is the lack of diversity in academia in the Texas Medical Center, especially in term of leadership. Having served as chair of his center’s community advisory board and have had the opportunity to know Dr. Lovell A. Jones personally, if he truly retires, this will be a tremendous lost for not only the citizens of color of Houston, the state of Texas and the nation, but for all citizens who believe in solving the issue of health inequities. Why, because Dr. Lovell A. Jones is an unbelievable force in his dedication to address health inequities.

Dr. Jones was the first African American to be promoted to a professorship at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. I believe he is the first in all of the UT components in the city of Houston. He is also only one of two basic scientists at that rank as part of the both the University of Texas Health Science Center and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Yes, you heard me correctly, in the city of Houston, the 4th largest city in the United States with one of the largest number of African Americans in this county in the 21st Century, we have one per UT component and with Dr. Jones’ retirement we will be at NONE at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Where is the outrage?

Dr. Jones came to this city over 33 years ago with a mission to change the face of cancer. You see, his mother developed this dreaded disease, and although she had access to some of the best care in the world, she immediately thought it was an automatic death sentence. I have heard Dr. Jones say that this hit him hard as a young faculty member at the University of California Medical Center at San Francisco. That if his discoveries were not impacting the people he cared the most about, what good were they? He said that what we now know is the gap is continuing to widen between discovery and delivery. He has consistently talked about this fact as one of the main reasons the mortality rate for breast cancer among African Americans living in Houston is four times that of white females. And the fact that he is only one of two has a direct impact on why the problem remains a problem. You will often hear him say, “Part of the key to solving health inequities is the fact that who we are shapes how we look at problems. That, in turn, often yields unique perspectives on scientific and technical problems and challenges in bench research and clinical care, and ultimately should provide a framework for addressing health disparities in Houston.” So if they don’t exist at the table, then the problem remains. This he has cited as one of his biggest failure, to get people to truly realize how serious a problem that is and the resulting impact. That it Is an issue of value. How we value each other