VUMC Mourns the Passing of Howard W. Jones III, MDMar. 12, 2019, 9:37 AM
by Wayne Wood
Howard W. Jones III, MD, professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, former chair of the department and a world-renowned researcher into the causes and treatment of gynecologic cancer, died unexpectedly in his sleep on Saturday, March 9. He was 76.
Dr. Jones was a leader in his department and at Vanderbilt University Medical Center for almost four decades. He served as director of Gynecologic Oncology for 28 years and accepted the role of department chair in 2009. He stepped down as chair in 2016 but continued to be an active member of the faculty, including leading Vanderbilt’s participation in an international study to determine the effectiveness of a new therapeutic vaccine for treating women with precancerous changes on the cervix and vulva.
“The Medical Center community is deeply saddened by this loss. Dr. Jones skillfully cared for generations of patients and was widely known for his cordial bedside manner. Howard’s research on the treatment of gynecologic cancer was practice-changing while he influenced countless colleagues, trainees and students through his desire to share an incredible wealth of knowledge,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer for VUMC and Dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “On behalf of the Medical Center, I want to express my sympathy to Howard’s wife, Pat, and their family.”
Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Health System Officer for VUMC, recalled Dr. Jones’ leadership in building the department during his time as chair.
“Dr. Jones was a facilitative and collaborative leader who was eager to meet the challenges and opportunities we encountered. Through nearly 40 years of service to VUMC, Howard was always guiding his department and our Medical Center to excellence,” Pinson said. “We are all going to miss him greatly. His dedication and commitment to others will continue to serve as an example to us all.”
Dr. Jones came to Vanderbilt in 1980 as a gynecologic cancer expert with a special interest in cervical cancer and precancerous conditions of the cervix (cervical dysplasia, cervical intraepithelial neoplasia). He has been involved with the development of various techniques for cervical cancer screening — Pap smears, liquid based cytology, HPV testing, colposcopy and HPV vaccines.
Ronald Alvarez, MD, Betty and Lonnie S. Burnett Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, who succeeded Dr. Jones as chair of the department, said, “Dr. Jones was a champion of Women’s Health at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He provided great care for many patients diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer, trained generations of residents, consistently contributed to the literature and served in key institutional and national leadership positions. He embodied all the great attributes for which Vanderbilt is known — kindness, dedication, thirst for knowledge and leadership. His spirit will be hard to replace, and he will be so sadly missed.”
Holly Judge, RN, MSN, associate nursing officer in the Center for Women’s Health, recalled Dr. Jones’ dedication to nurses.
“Dr. Jones was a natural leader who struck a balance between being a physician, mentor and friend. He was a strong advocate for nurses and his actions inspired the growth of nursing practice in Women’s Health at Vanderbilt,” she said.
Early in his life, Dr. Jones was influenced in his career choice by his parents, Dr. Howard W. Jones Jr. and Dr. Georgeanna S. Jones, who were researchers and clinicians in women’s health, reproductive medicine and pioneers in in vitro fertilization.
With the goal of following in his parents’ footsteps, Dr. Jones graduated from Amherst College in 1964 and received his medical degree from Duke University in 1968. He served his residency in OB/GYN at the University of Colorado Medical Center in Denver and completed a fellowship in gynecologic oncology at MD Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute in Houston.
He served as a Major in the U.S. Army from 1974 to 1976, where he was the Chief of Gynecologic Oncology at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas.
Dr. Jones’ leadership is evidenced by his publications. He authored numerous scientific articles and co-edited several medical textbooks including “TeLinde’s Textbook of Gynecologic Surgery” and previous editions of “Novak’s Textbook of Gynecology.” He was the editor-in-chief for gynecology of the “Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey” for more than 25 years.
Dr. Jones was also a member of many national and international societies, including his recent term as president of the Society of Pelvic Surgeons in 2017-18. For many years he was an active volunteer for the American Cancer Society and served as president of the Tennessee division and the Davidson County unit. He was awarded the St. George National Award for service by the American Cancer Society in 1996 in recognition of his outstanding service to the community in support of the society’s mission to combat cancer.
He also served on the boards of directors of Alive Hospice and Boy Scouts of America, an organization that was important throughout his life after having been an Eagle Scout as a boy.
Dr. Jones is survived by his wife of 52 years, Patricia Harris Jones; son, Howard Jones; daughter, Kathleen O’Connor; sister, Georgeanna Klingensmith; brother, Larry Jones; and four grandchildren.
Visitation will be March 15 from 5-7 p.m. and March 16 from 1:30-2 p.m. at St. George Episcopal Church, 4715 Harding Pike, with a memorial service at the church March 16 at 2 p.m. Memorial donations may be made to the Dr. Howard W. Jones III Resident Educational Fund at VUMC, R1217 Medical Center North, 1161 21st Ave. S., Nashville, 37232.