Georgetown University recently announced the appointment of Leon “Lee” Jones, MD, as dean for medical education at Georgetown University School of Medicine. A board-certified psychiatrist and nationally recognized expert in enhancing the learning environment for medical students, Jones joins Georgetown from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine, where he currently serves as health sciences clinical professor of psychiatry and associate dean for students.
Jones describes his approach to medical education as grounded squarely in truth, science and equity. The latter element, in particular, resonates with him deeply at a time when the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion in health care is more urgent and timely than ever.
“Something really important to me is the challenge of bringing more people in and truly diversifying the practice of medicine,” Jones said. “To do this, we need to figure out what people need to know and understand as they move along their journey—we need to meet students where they are.”
“As our School of Medicine continues its work to sustain and advance a community that enables diverse students and faculty to learn and thrive, we are deeply grateful for the expertise and experience Dr. Jones will bring to his new role as dean,” said Georgetown President John J. DeGioia.
‘An inspiring and transformational leader’
With a start date of August 1, Jones will arrive just in time to welcome the class of 2025 to Georgetown. In addition to leading medical education at Georgetown, he will assume the role of professor of psychiatry.
Jones brings a decades-long commitment to curricular innovation and to creating an environment that supports exploration of complex issues while acknowledging the unique trajectory of every trainee, according to Edward B. Healton, MD, MPH, executive vice president for health sciences at Georgetown University Medical Center and executive dean of the School of Medicine. Beyond his credentials, Jones’ character and values are well-aligned with Georgetown’s ethos.
“Dr. Jones is an inspiring and transformational leader who is uniquely positioned to lead our medical school into this next decade,” Healton said. “He is highly regarded nationally as a champion for advancing medical education, for medical students and the issues that most affect them, and for creating a culture of equity and diversity.”
“Dr. Jones’ selection as the new dean for medical education represents what is possible in the field of medicine when we work collectively to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table,” said Malcolm Meredith (M’23), the student representative on the dean search committee. “I am confident that he will be the transformative leader that will help turn the page from these challenging times.”
Training physicians who understand people
Acknowledging the medical field’s checkered past when it comes to respecting minority and other underserved communities, Jones believes that promoting diversity is foundational to everything else in medicine.
“Particularly in health care, people need to recognize—and actually say out loud—that diversity is a value, and that you can’t really have excellence without it,” Jones noted. To that end, Jones said he has well noted Georgetown’s ongoing efforts to reckon with racial inequality and its own role in addressing it, among them the recently launched university-wide Racial Justice Institute, the university’s initiative on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation, the medical center’s Racial Justice Committee for Change, and other educational initiatives.
“Supporting these endeavors and creating an anti-racist, anti-oppressive and inclusive environment is a priority that I share with the Georgetown community,” he said. Working toward a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce creates the conditions for better health care overall, according to Jones.
A student-centered career
During his more than 25-year career in medical education, Jones has served as associate dean for students at major universities including University of California, Davis, University of Arizona, University of Texas School of Medicine at San Antonio, and UCSF. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors.
Jones has taken on critical national leadership roles to design and advance strategies that enhance the culture of equity and inclusion at medical schools across the United States. He is past chair of the AAMC Group on Student Affairs National Steering Committee and currently serves on the AAMC Board of Directors. He chaired the AAMC Task Force on Redesign of the Medical Student Performance Evaluation and is the AAMC Board of Directors’ representative to the Coalition for Physician Accountability.
An expert in holistic admissions, Jones has served as a national educator on medical education and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), as well as for the Building the Next Generation of Academic Physicians diversity initiative. In addition, he has been an active participant in educational initiatives designed to enhance care of LGBTQI patients, including the creation of a series of video interviews for the AAMC on the topic of enhancing institutional culture and climate for LGBT populations and those born with differences in sex development.
Jones said his training in psychology and psychiatry has been formative in his interactions with students over the years. Students’ wellness, he says, is not something that can be separated out from medical school, or “added on” later.
“What we are trained to do as physicians is first learn medicine, and then attend to your health and well-being—it’s going in two different file cabinets, when really these things need to be integrated,” Jones said. “Whether it’s the transition into medical school, something that happens in medical school, or an issue with their health or family, I’ve seen firsthand the benefit of strategizing with students to help them get through. They come back even more resilient than they were before, and become outstanding, compassionate physicians.”