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Miami hepatologist leverages Golden Rule to balance work, family, address health equities


Hepatologist Patricia Denise Jones, MD, recollects the balancing act of going through medical training while caring for her four children.

“I had them at every stage: my first one as a medical student; twins when I was a resident, and my last one at the end of fellowship. It was challenging, trying to put their needs first while trying to be a great doctor, learning how to do research,” said Dr. Jones, an associate professor at the University of Miami Health system.

She has no regrets. “I think I’m a better doctor and colleague because I have children. Showing my kids how important it is to help and serve others is one of the best legacies I can leave them.”

University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

Dr. Patricia Jones

If there’s anything she’d like to fix, it’s the healthcare delivery system for patients disproportionately affected by liver disease.

Dr. Jones was selected as 1 of 10 scholars in the inaugural cohort of the National Institutes of Health–funded program Fostering Opportunities Resulting in Workforce and Research Diversity (FORWARD) where she participated in a 2-year program of leadership development, mentorship, and research skills development.

In an interview, Dr. Jones discussed her life’s work to address and research disparities in liver disease and cancer – and the motto that gets her through every day.

Q: Describe your current practice. What gives you the most joy in your day-to-day practice?

Dr. Jones: Being able to make a difference in the lives of patients. A lot of the patients that I take care of have difficulty navigating the health system. That’s the population I feel most inclined to serve. It’s always rewarding to help someone make a connection that they couldn’t make on their own or help them understand something that wasn’t clear. Knowing that you’re helping someone to live a healthier life is deeply gratifying.

Q: Tell me about your patient population.

Dr. Jones: My focus is patients with liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma specifically, and cirrhosis patients. They tend to be sick relative to most Americans. I also take care of people who have other forms of liver disease like fatty liver and viral hepatitis. I live in Miami, so most of the patients that I take care of are going to be Hispanic. A good percentage are immigrants with limited health literacy.

Q: What is your biggest practice-related challenge? What are you doing to address it?

Dr. Jones: Lack of insurance and underinsurance. One patient of mine with Medicare and Humana has a carve out: She can see me and some of my colleagues but not the oncologist or a radiation oncologist. For her to be seen in our center, she would have to get a referral from a doctor in a different county. This makes no sense. It’s a hard problem to solve. To me, that’s the most challenging thing – not being able to help when something is beyond my control, beyond what I understand, and translating it into action.


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