The Remarkable Career of Kirtly Parker Jones
| Sep 9, 2012 1:00 PM
Guest blog post written by Peta Owens-Liston
Have you noticed more babies named Kirtly or Parker within the last 30 years in the Intermountain West? If so, it may have something to do with Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones, MD. As a reproductive medicine specialist in the U’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, she has tenderly and skillfully cared for hundreds of women facing the painful trials of infertility. She has also spearheaded clinical efforts and research in contraception and family planning, as well as advanced reproductive technology and menopause. “My motives are all about empowering women in their choices,” says Dr. Jones.
While patient care has always guided Dr. Jones efforts, her commitment to educating new doctors is a close second. She is Professor and Vice Chair for Educational Affairs in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the U’s School of Medicine. This year, after 30 years here, Dr. Jones will retire from a career that has touched many lives. With a personal philosophy that “everybody matters,” there is no doubt her absence will be felt deeply and widely.
Why retire now?
My husband and I decided at 60 we would cut our jobs in half, paring it down to just research and teaching. My husband, Christopher Jones, MD, PhD, ran the U’s Sleep-Wake Center. For us, it just seemed like it would be the right time to make this transition—we had to decide what to do, what we do best, and give up what other people might be doing better. Plus, in academic medicine, one needs to move over so people can move up.
There is a lot more to do. For people of my generation, we went to school, school, and more school then work, work, and more work. My brain is ready for some different things and looking back there were a lot of things I may have wanted to learn in college but couldn’t on the medical track.
I’m interested in studying what wisdom is through the U’s Peace and Conflict Studies Masters Program. When you get older, your brain is not so swift with new languages, numbers, computer programs…but you do have the big picture having lived enough. For me, I’ve had the incredible privilege of listening to patients for 40 years. I did earn a Certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution from the University but who knows what I have yet to offer.
Of course, I’m hoping to still teach in my department and will be teaching a course this year with a judge and a bio-ethicist on the uneasy intersection between medicine and the law as part of the Honors Think Tank in the University of Utah’s Honors Program.
Peace and Conflict Studies?
You can’t live in United States right now without feeling we are not moving forward as a nation the way our talent and energy should enable us to progress. We’re spending a lot of time being pulled apart because it serves some people. I believe we are capable as a species, as a community, as individuals of enormous things. What is keeping us from achieving them? Perhaps I can be a part of this effort.
Landing in Utah—planned?
It was my husband’s turn to choose our next stop. He had stayed in Boston so I could do my residency and fellowship in reproductive endocrinology fellowship at Harvard. Neither of us wanted to be in the East. We flew to Denver and rented a van and interviewed at every big city between there and Vancouver. He was looking for a residency in pediatric neurology; he also had a strong interest in alternative energy. The day we drove into Salt Lake City, it was a sunny, windy day in May, 1982.
The U felt young, vibrant and growing, not as stuffy as Harvard. We both thought we could grow here and be medium size fish in not a very big pond. The sense I get at the U, was that everybody mattered. I get this from the people I’ve worked with on all levels, whether it is the janitor cleaning my office or a colleague.
Clinically, IVF [In Vitro Fertilization] has grown tremendously and is now highly successful. It is a crucial procedure for people who want to avoid passing on inherited diseases to their children. It gives them the choice to stop the disease in their family line now.
Learned from patients?
Humor. Generosity. Resilience. I’ve learned much more from my patients than they have learned from me. I have had quite a few women who have had bone marrow transplants and cancer, and they’ve taught be about courage and grace. My long-term patients, some I’ve seen for 20 to 28 years, are some of the most amazing women in the Intermountain West. I’ve had a wonderful practice, full of mothers and grandmothers.
Did it make you proud being voted one of the best OB/GYN docs in the country and being in Who’s Who among American doctors?
I have no idea how they arrive at their decisions. I’ll tell you what I’m most proud of during my service to the University: receiving the Jarcho Teaching Award—the highest award a medical school gives to faculty—and the Linda K. Amos Award for Distinguished Service to Women.
Why reproductive endocrinology?
As an undergraduate in molecular and developmental biology, I began realizing where the real magic was—at the very beginning of life. There is still so much mystery about this stage, when egg meets sperm. I followed the mystery.
Advice to those who follow?
Academic medicine is a faith-based endeavor. You must believe in and hold on tight to the belief in the church of academic medicine, patient care, teaching and research.
Author: Vivian S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A.
About the Author: Dr. Vivian S. Lee is the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences at the University of Utah, Dean of the University of Utah School of Medicine, and CEO of University of Utah Health Care. Read her full bio herecomments powered by Disqus