W. Nicholson Jones

W. Nicholson Jones


William Nicholson Jones was born in Bibb County, Alabama, on December 11, 1901. He was the youngest of 12 children of Robert Jefferson and Nancy Louvenia Jones. Growing up in rural Alabama, Nick Jones attended elementary school in a one-room schoolhouse, with all grades taught by a single teacher. He attended Bibb County High School and then the University of North Alabama from 1921 to 1923. In 1923 he enrolled in the Medical College of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, a 2-year school, and in 1925 he transferred to Tulane University. On completion of medical school, he interned at Charity Hospital in New Orleans and spent a second year with his activity devoted entirely to gynecology and obstetrics.

In 1930, Dr. Jones returned to Birmingham, Alabama, and attempted to find a full-time teaching position. Because none was available, he worked with a preceptor, Dr. Dabney, and afterward, in addition to being in private practice, was a consulting gynecologist, providing indigent care at the Hillman Hospital. In 1945, Dr. Jones was asked to organize a teaching program in gynecology and to assume the responsibility of chief of the Gynecology Service at Hillman Hospital. When the 2-year school in Tuscaloosa was transferred to Birmingham in 1945, Dr. Jones was named chief of the Gynecology Service in the Jefferson-Hillman Hospital, the teaching hospital for the newly established 4-year Medical College of Alabama, and served in that capacity for the next 10 years. In 1955, the Department of Gynecology was combined with the Department of Obstetrics, and Dr. Jones was appointed chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which he held on a voluntary basis until his retirement from the Medical School in 1968. Dr. Jones also maintained a private practice from 1930, when he came to Birmingham, until the age of 80, when he retired from medical practice.

Dr. Jones brought great joy as well as dedication to his teaching and great teaching skills to the Medical School. He was acutely aware of and always emphasized the explosion of knowledge occurring in obstetrics and gynecology from the 1940s through the 1970s. He therefore devoted a great deal of time and energy to keeping current, so that he could pass on this knowledge to students, residents, and fellow practitioners. During his tenure as chairman of obstetrics and gynecology, he expanded the gynecologic educational program to include pathology of the reproductive systems, physiology, endocrinology, and gynecologic cancer therapy. He also introduced into the teaching program the practice of correlating the history and features of the physical examination to the eventual pathologic diagnosis. The obstetricians and gynecologists trained by Dr. Jones played a large role in the reduction in Alabama's maternal and perinatal mortality achieved during the last half of this century.

Dr. Jones' special interest was gynecologic cancer. He placed great emphasis on "early, accurate, and complete diagnosis, early and adequate therapy, and adequate follow-up." In 1938, using a format for tumor clinics established by the American College of Surgeons, he initiated one of the first gynecologic tumor clinics in the Southeast. He formed a multidisciplinary gynecologic cancer clinic including representatives from the Departments of Surgery, Medicine, Pathology, Dermatology, Radiology, and Gynecology, and Dr. Jones attended this clinic every Thursday from 1938 until 1958. In 1940 Dr. Jones introduced the Pap smear to Alabama, and some of his early work corroborated its value in the diagnosis and management of cervical and vaginal cancer.

In an interview he gave in the mid-1980's, he noted that in relation to patient care in obstetrics and gynecology, "the improvements both in Alabama and across the country are amazing." He emphasized how gratified he was "to be even a small part of such significant progress!" However, of all Dr. Jones' achievements, he noted that his greatest achievement was his family. He married Geneva DeWitt in 1939 and had three children, Genevieve Jones (Kline), W. Nicholson Jones, Jr., and Bruce Jones. He delighted in, and in turn, delighted his six grandchildren. He brought wit, humor, and usually a low-key demeanor to his practice, his administrative duties, his teaching, and his family. At age 90 he told his family how much he enjoyed his life, and that he was quite ready to start all over and do it again.

In 1988, the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham endowed the W. Nicholson Jones Library to honor its founding chairman and to emphasize his strong interest in and the promotion of continuing education.

Submitted by Robert L. Goldenberg

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