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Dr. Michael Jones returns to Forty Acres for B.A.

Plenty of people start and stop college work for various reasons on the way to completing their bachelor's degree. One of those people is Harvey Michael "Mike" Jones, M.D.

Yet few go through medical school, nine years in the Navy — eight as a physician, 29 years of private practice, and seven years and counting as a professor at a medical school, before completing the requirements for their bachelor's. But that's exactly what Jones did. Why get his bachelor's degree in history now after 52 years?

Mike Jones, M.D., with wife, Becky, outside Bass Concert Hall

Mike Jones, M.D., with wife, Becky, outside Bass Concert Hall; Photo by friends, Rodney and Lawanna Lloyd of Boerne, Texas

History Department Academic Advising Coordinator Nancy Sutherland remembers their first conversation three years ago. "He just felt things were incomplete and wanted to see if he could finish it," she said.

Jones was actually born in Austin, but grew up in the small west Texas town of Winters. Many of his friends graduated from The University of Texas, including his former college roommate from Big Spring, Julius Glickman, now a civic leader in Houston and the managing partner of the law firm Glickman, Carter & Bachynsky, L.L.P.

They met during their freshman year at the university in 1958. Both of them were Plan II majors and pre-law. "We had many mutual interests and both of us enjoyed discussing issues even when we disagreed," Glickman said.

But during the spring semester of Jones' junior year, a stroll through a bookstore changed everything. How? His attention was attracted to a display of books written by a young Navy doctor, Tom Dooley, who participated in the evacuation of refugees from North Vietnam during the original communist takeover from the French.

Dooley went on to found a non-religious medical missionary organization in southeast Asia called Medico. He recorded these historic events in the form of three books. "I bought one of the books, took it home, and read it while lying on a blanket in the yard that afternoon," he vividly recalls. "His life held forth the altruistic aspect of medicine that exerted a powerful appeal to me." Several months later, he changed his major as he realized he had found his "new calling."

Julius Glickman quote about what history does

Glickman remembers being caught totally by surprise at this turn of what he had considered was an inevitability — that they would both be lawyers. "Mike is a very disciplined person, both physically and mentally, very mentally acute!" he emphasized. "We had a lot in common being two small-town boys. Mike came from Winters and I came from Big Spring — Big Spring being the larger, more cosmopolitan of the two," Glickman paused and then laughed.

What did Glickman think about Jones getting his B.A. in history? "I think it was a remarkable thing for him to do and a very natural one because of what history does. History uses the past to illuminate the present and helps us prepare for the future," he said. "Mike has always had broad interests and curiosity." It fits into what he is doing now teaching medical students and his continuing focus in particular on medical history.

So with only one year left at the university, Jones scrambled to complete the necessary science and biology pre-med courses for medical school. Even though he had plenty of semester hours, they didn't add up to the requirements for a bachelor's degree. Nonetheless, Washington University's School of Medicine in St. Louis waived the undergraduate degree requirement and admitted Jones — not surprising, given the outstanding student he was.

While at The University of Texas, he was invited to become a member of the national professional honors society, Phi Beta Kappa; was a member of the Silver Spurs Men's Service Organization and the Tejas Club. In addition, he served on numerous committees of the Student Union and Student Government. Jones was also nominated to become a member of the Friar Society — the oldest and one of the most distinguished honor societies on campus.

As a medical student, on Sundays, he and several other students voluntarily visited residents living in housing projects in downtown St. Louis to provide medical care and guidance. They mentored them on healthier lifestyles by demonstrating and teaching, for example, about microscopic life and the role "germs" play in diseases. The above banner photo was taken on one of those Sundays.

Mike Jones, M.D., 1966 as a newly minted doctor

Jones as newly minted intern, 1966; Photo by: Eddie Little

"There were not many white faces in that neighborhood, and I had some scary encounters on the streets as an 'outsider.' Without fail, however, when those confronting me discovered why I was there, the outcomes were positive," Jones says. "Never did I appreciate that white coat and black bag so much as on those days." It is worth pointing out that while volunteerism has become the gold standard for college students today, it was not practiced by college or med students back in the mid '60s.

Interestingly, Dooley, the man whose story changed Jones' career choice, was a native of St. Louis. Sadly, Dooley died from malignant melanoma at the early age of 33. Jones visited his grave site while a student there.

"After leaving med school in 1966, my rotating internship and pathology residency was with the Navy in Philadelphia [Pa.]," Jones said. His internship and residency were finished in 1971, but he stayed in the Navy until the summer of 1974 as a staff pathologist at the Portsmouth Virginia Naval Hospital.

At that time the Vietnam War was winding down. His duty was stateside caring for service personnel injured in Vietnam that had been evacuated back to the United States.

"After leaving the Navy in 1974, I became the first pathologist that Henderson, N.C. had ever had. It was part of a community effort to rebuild a declining medical staff in order to provide enhanced services locally," he said.

"I was the 13th physician to join the existing medical staff at that time, and my practice was limited to one hospital. Over the years we grew to a full-time resident physician staff of around 35 and my pathology practice expanded to cover hospitals in five neighboring communities."

In 2003, Jones left private practice and became a professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Medical School. He presently instructs lab sessions for medical students along with supervising residents at UNC Memorial Hospital in the performance and reporting of autopsies.

All the while, his interest in history — especially medical history — continued to grow and that "incomplete" in his otherwise stellar curriculum vitae, just would not do for Jones.

"Nancy Sutherland [academic advisor] was of immense help in figuring out how to dot all the 'i's," Jones says. Sutherland worked with the Plan II and Dean's Offices as well as the Registrar's Office to come up with a solution for what courses were lacking for a degree in history. Among the German language and history classes, was a history conference course he needed to take.

The professor in the History Department that most closely matched Jones' interests was Associate Professor Bruce Hunt, whose thematic fields are history of modern science, the history of technology, and modern British history.

Hunt worked with Jones on a project that "focused on the history of pellagra in the American South. It was already something that he had a strong interest in, and particularly on the role of various physicians and researchers in the early 20th century in identifying its cause and possible cure," Hunt said.

"Pellagra is a debilitating condition that leads to skin diseases, mental problems, and in severe cases death. Its cause has now been identified as a dietary deficiency of niacin — vitamin B3," Hunt explained. It primarily showed up in the southern states in the early 1900s, though it may have been around earlier than that.

The disease afflicted a disproportionate number of sharecroppers, millworkers, and residents of orphanages whose diets were little more than cornmeal with dried and salted pork strips. With fresh vegetables or other kinds of meat missing from their diets, they simply were not getting enough niacin.

According to Hunt, Joseph Goldberger, a Jewish American physician with the U.S. Public Health Service, was assigned to study the disease. Until then, pellagra was thought to be caused by some kind of virus, bacteria or contamination.

Growing up in the small west Texas town of Winters

Growing up in the small west Texas town of Winters

But by around 1920, Goldberger's research proved that a predominately corn-based diet was the cause of pellagra. He later showed that dietary supplements could prevent and even reverse the condition.

Unfortunately though, Southern pride caused many doctors in the South to reject Goldberger's findings. This response by Southern physicians was the focus of Jones' paper.

"Mike did a very thorough job both of examining existing historical accounts of the controversy and digging up additional primary sources, particularly relating to Dr. E.J. Wood of North Carolina — one of the most active southern researchers on pellagra," Hunt says.

"It ended up being a very good paper, and I gave it an A. I enjoyed working with him and helping to give him a chance to finish his B.A. in history after all these years."

At last, it's May 21, 6 p.m., the History Department graduation ceremony has begun. "When we gathered in Bass Hall for the ceremony and I opened the booklet, I discovered that the general Liberal Arts commencement ceremony that day at noon had chosen none other than my old college roommate, Julius Glickman, to be the commencement speaker."

While they had not completely lost touch over the years, communication had been intermittent. So he knew Glickman had a very successful law practice and been the founding member of the firm in Houston, but no idea he was going to be the College of Liberal Art's graduation speaker. But here they were both back on the Forty Acres again without either one knowing it.

Jones later contacted Glickman to tell him about "the ironic twist" of the day and he too thought it "a big irony that we were both on campus for the same wonderful event after all these years but did not know it," he said.

They've got plans to meet for a Longhorn football game in the fall. Jones' cousin, Bill Little, who lives in Austin will be glad to host his cousin and wife again. Yes, that's the same Bill Little that is currently Mack Brown's personal media assistant and the former UT sports information director.

"Several parents of students there saw me on the way out and responded with comments like, 'Oh, you are that doctor guy aren't you?' All a bit embarrassing actually," the rather quiet Jones said.

With that bachelor's degree now under his microscope so to speak, he's become more grateful than ever for that med versus law school decision so long ago. In the past several years, Jones has received standing ovations on the last class day from his medical students.

"It has made me think that the delight I have found in just learning and sharing that with others was perhaps the reward that should have been pursued from the beginning, not just in the advanced years," he says. "It emphasizes how tough it is to identify one's proper niche when young." And the importance of being open to developing a variety of options he explained — and perhaps visiting bookstores.

From the look of the complete attention of these young boys in the banner photo, it seems Jones was finding his true "niche" well before he realized it.

Q: Is it ever too late to get your B.A.?
A: Ask Jones!

Related Links:
Harvey Michael Jones, M.D., Curriculum Vitae (PDF, 84K)

Story by: M.G. Moore; Contributors: Professor Bruce Hunt, Judy Hogan
Sources: Dr. Mike Jones and Julius Glickman, managing partner Glickman, Carter & Bachynsky, L.L.P.

Banner graphic by: M.G. Moore

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