Christopher Jones, MD
Division Director, Division of Transplantation and Associate Professor of Surgery
Medical Director, Trager Transplant Center
This article first appeared in the 2017 issue of Sutureline.
Christopher Jones, MD, decided to become a doctor because growing up, he did not see many people who resembled him in the medical community.
"There were African-American nurses, respiratory therapists and other medical technicians but no physicians," he said. "When I expressed my concern to my father, he took me to visit Eastern Virginia Medical School, where he introduced me to Dr. L.D. Britt. That meeting was life-changing for me. Soon thereafter I knew I wanted to be a surgeon just like Dr. Britt."
Dr. Jones attended medical school at Georgetown University, trained in general surgery at Vanderbilt University and completed a fellowship in adult and pediatric liver, kidney, pancreas and small intestine transplantation at UCLA, the nation’s premier transplant program.
"We were fortunate to recruit him to the University of Louisville where he has risen to the rank of Director of the Division of Transplantation," said Kelly McMasters, MD, PhD, Chairman of the Department of Surgery and Professor of Surgery. "Transplantation is enormously complex and multidisciplinary. It involves outstanding executive leadership skills and management across a wide array of clinical, business and regulatory environments. Dr. Jones has done a tremendous job for our program."
Dr. Jones chose to become a transplant surgeon in honor of a very special friend, Rose. When he was younger, he and his brother played with Rose every weekend when they visited their grandmother’s house, and she became like a sister to him. One weekend, when he was visiting, he saw an ambulance at Rose’s house.
"I can vividly remember Rose being wheeled out of her house on a stretcher, and the EMT saying to his partner ‘she needs a liver transplant, but she probably ain’t going to get one,’" Dr. Jones recalled.
Unfortunately, that was the last time Dr. Jones saw Rose alive, but at her funeral on December 4, 1982 he told her parents that he would never let anyone die that needed a liver transplant.
"It was at that moment that I dedicated my life to being a liver transplant surgeon," Dr. Jones said. "Each day I come to work I try to keep my promise to Rose’s parents."
Dr. Jones said his favorite part of his job is operating on patients and seeing them at their first post-operative appointment.
"Patients feel 100 times better after they receive their organ, and they are anxious to show us things they couldn’t do before," he said. "It’s a good feeling."
He said his least favorite part of his job is not being able to perform a transplant on everyone who needs one. Patients are not candidates for transplantation for three main reasons: insurmountable psychosocial issues, poor medical condition and financial issues.
"I can accept psychosocial issues and poor medical condition, but financial issues shouldn’t be a reason we don’t save a life. I would like to eradicate financial issues as being a barrier to receiving a life-saving organ transplant," he said. "To that end I am working with local and regional philanthropists to help shore up our patient assistance fund. I am also working with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) to develop more overarching plans to remove finances as a barrier."
When he is not working, Dr. Jones enjoys spending time with his family. His children are in multiple sports, and he can be seen cheering from the sidelines when he is not at the hospital. He also enjoys fishing.
"There’s something about the serenity that comes with fishing that you can’t find anywhere else. It gives my mind a break from all of the hustle and bustle of daily life," he said. "It is very cathartic for me, and it allows me to reset and focus on the important things." He enjoys taking his family to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina for vacation.
"It’s a special place for me because that’s where my dad would always take me and my brother for our ‘weekend for men.’ I only recently found out that my dad was giving my mother a break from us when we took our trips," he said. "I learned a lot on those weekend trips. The small house we stayed in had no special accommodations, not even a television. Needless to say, we did a lot of talking. My father was a minister so he could definitely talk, but he was a good teacher too. I think spending that time with my dad is what molded me into the person I am today."