Physician Assistant leader Jones named Professor Emeritus

Dr. Phillip Eugene “Gene” Jones
Dr. Phillip Eugene “Gene” Jones

Dr. Phillip Eugene “Gene” Jones, who led the Physician Assistant Studies Program at UT Southwestern School of Health Professions for 24 years, has been named a Professor Emeritus of Physician Assistant Studies at UT Southwestern.

“Under Dr. Jones’ leadership, the UT Southwestern Physician Assistant Program became nationally ranked. I am especially proud that it has been recognized for exceptional diversity and inclusion,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern. “Dr. Jones was an outstanding educator and administrator, who contributed nationally to the development of Physician Assistant programs through his participation in national panels and committees.”

The UT Southwestern program was notified this summer that it will be receiving the Physician Assistant Education Association’s Excellence Through Diversity Award in October. This honor is an annual award, given to only one program nationwide each year. Dr. Jones’ selection as Professor Emeritus by the UT System marks the second faculty member from the School so honored. In 2016, Dr. Gordon Green, who served as Dean and Professor for the School of Health Professions from 1991 to 2006, was named Professor Emeritus.

“It was a total shock and surprise. I didn’t see that coming,” said Dr. Jones. “I’m so deeply honored. It’s incredible for me, and particularly for our school.”

“Dr. Jones has received numerous awards, including the Minnie Stevens Piper Professor Award, UT System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award, and a Presidential Award for Excellence from the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants,” said Dr. Jon Williamson, Dean of the School of Health Professions. “He also has participated as an invited member of an expert panel on dissemination of patient-centered outcomes research for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and was a member of the National Academy of Medicine Committee on the Future of Primary Care.”

In the early 1990s, UT Southwestern upgraded the Physician Assistant Studies Program from a bachelor’s degree to a more sought-after master’s degree offering. In 1993, Dr. Jones – who had already completed a 20-year military career in the Navy – joined the faculty. In 1999, he began his role as Chairman of the Program, which awards M.P.A.S. degrees.

“It’s really been a perfect storm of circumstances,” Dr. Jones recalled. “Physician assistants became part of the national conversation during the Clinton administration’s first foray into health care reform, which was focused on increased access to care. From that, there developed a need for a different clinical career pathway that was less expensive and quicker to train, and that became the current PA model that originated in the mid-1960s.”

Moving the UT Southwestern program from the baccalaureate to M.S. level was challenging, but raised the program to a new level. Dr. Jones, armed with advanced degrees that included a master’s in health services management and a master’s and doctorate in education, proved to be the perfect educator as well as advocate. During his tenure, Dr. Jones helped develop an inclusive and diverse program, currently 15th of 154 programs ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

“One of the things I’m very proud of is that we have produced a significant number of faculty who have gone on and become leaders at other PA programs around the country,” Dr. Jones said.

In the military, he served as an enlisted Naval Hospital corpsman from 1969 to 1975 before completing his PA studies through the University of Nebraska while stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. From 1976 to 1989, he served as a physician assistant chief warrant officer.

Dr. Jones went on to complete his doctorate in 1991 from Claremont Graduate University in California. He served on the University of Wisconsin faculty before being recruited to UT Southwestern.

Currently, Dr. Jones works part time as a consultant for PA programs preparing for accreditation and enjoys fishing trips and spending time with his family and Elizabeth, his wife of 41 years.

Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.