Jones to step down as chair of Obstetrics and GynecologyAug. 27, 2015, 11:27 AM
Howard Jones III, M.D., Betty and Lonnie S. Burnett professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) and chair of the department, will be stepping down as chair on June 30, 2016. Jones will continue his clinical practice as well as serve as a consultant on outreach projects.
A committee to lead the national search for Jones’ successor is being formed by Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, and will be named in the coming days.
Prior to his appointment as chair in 2009, Jones was the director of Gynecologic Oncology for 28 years.
During his tenure growth was a top priority — the number of births at Vanderbilt nearly doubled from 2,500 to more than 4,500; full-time faculty positions increased from 35 to 72 and outreach programs flourished through collaboration with area hospitals and expansion of services to satellite clinics in neighboring counties.
In 2008, the department saw approximately 42,800 outpatient visits a year. Today that number totals more than 100,000.
“Dr. Jones has impacted generations of patients through more than four decades of senior leadership at VUMC. Exceptional growth of the department’s patient services with constant attention to exceptional quality, while also nourishing foundational education and research programs, are the hallmark of his leadership,” said Balser. “I want to express my sincere appreciation for Howard’s friendship and longstanding service to Vanderbilt and am grateful he will remain an active member of our faculty.”
Jones, an esteemed academic clinician, 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.
“Throughout the recent growth in our health system, including the launch of the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network, Dr. Jones has been a facilitative and collaborative leader who is eager to meet the challenges and opportunities we’ve encountered. He has helped guide efforts to work together to create new satellite clinics with our VHAN affiliates, increase referrals for the unique OB/GYN services we offer, and meet the overwhelming demand for deliveries here on our central campus,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, M.D., deputy vice chancellor for Health Affairs and CEO of the Vanderbilt Health System. “Howard has been the right individual at this important time to help us excel in an area so integral to our success.”
In 2008 Jones was appointed interim chair of the department and named permanent chair in 2009. He recalls one of the first tasks his team was given:
“We were asked to boost our deliveries to 4,000 by 2012. I admit we were not sure we could do it,” he said. “We started thinking of how to make it happen. We wanted to get bigger. We knew we had to grow. And once we started … it was like kaboom! We just keep expanding.
“We have had a terrific increase in patient volumes and market share in our surrounding counties, which allowed our faculty numbers to grow,” Jones said. “We are delivering a great service with really great outcomes.”
But with growth comes challenges.
“Interestingly enough, what is tough right now is our growth,” he said. “We are just about at max capacity. So despite our expansion we are feeling the pressure of figuring out how to relieve some of the congestion at Vanderbilt University Hospital main campus.”
The departmental growth has been a team effort, and Jones said he applauds Frank Boehm, M.D., with working alongside him as vice chair of the department to make such impactful changes.
Research endeavors of the department have also escalated, said Jones, pointing out work in prematurity, a worldwide problem that can lead to significant morbidity.
In 2014, Vanderbilt launched a program called Expect With Me, offering prenatal care in a group setting to provide social and emotional support in addition to standard prenatal care, education and skills.
Evidence showed that the program design was associated with a lower incidence of preterm births, reduced c-sections and shorter neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) stays after birth.
In concert with the clinical study, the department focused on epigenetics of prematurity in mice that showed a relationship between inflammation in the placenta and preterm birth. Although years away from clinical use, “We think that, over time, it may prove to be a really significant contribution to our understanding, and hopefully improve management of prematurity,” Jones said.
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 has authored numerous scientific publications 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.
Jones is a member of many national and international societies. For many years he has been an active volunteer for the American Cancer Society and has 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. Recipients are chosen based on ongoing leadership, time commitment and dedication to areas such as fundraising, mission delivery, patient support, legislative advocacy and event engagement.
After he steps down as chair, Jones hopes to spend more time with his wife, Pat, working in their garden and around the house and traveling. He also plans to take time to delve into his hobby of building model boats.