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Dr. Howard W. Jones — Lessons from the Life of an Extraordinary Man

On July 31, 2015, the infertility community lost a giant in the field of reproductive medicine. The father of in vitro fertilization in the U.S., Dr. Howard W. Jones, passed away at 104. For those of us who have been practicing our specialty for decades, Dr. Jones was a living legend that seemed indefatigable as the ‘leader emeritus’ of our field.

He and his late wife, Dr. Georgeanna Seegar Jones, are primarily remembered for their seminal achievement as being the first American doctors to perform a successful IVF cycle in the U.S. But his achievements did not stop there. His long, productive life is an example of several valuable lessons.

Being a teacher is equally as important as being an innovator
Many of today’s leading reproductive endocrinologists and embryologists were either trained directly by Dr. Jones or those professionals educated the next generation of specialists. IVF and reproductive medicine have evolved exponentially because of Dr. Jones’ dedication to education.

Retirement can be the start of the next phase of your career
Did you know that Dr. Jones’ achieved the first successful IVF birth after he was forced to retire from Johns Hopkins Medical School? He and his wife moved to Virginia and established the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine at the Eastern Virginia Medical School. The rest, as they say, is history. Dr. Jones continued to be active throughout his life, publishing books, contributing to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and speaking out on issues important to infertility medicine.

Failure is not an option when something is important
Before the first successful cycle of IVF in the U.S. in 1981, resulting in the birth of Elizabeth Jordan Carr, Dr. Jones and his wife conducted 41 failed attempts. Though they faced tremendous obstacles and much opposition to their plans, they persevered nonetheless.

Part of being a professional is showing you care
Dr. Jones was not only an accomplished physician and scientist, he also was an empathetic man who cared and wanted to help his patients achieve their dream of parenthood. As Elizabeth Carr Comeau wrote in her recent tribute to Dr. Jones: “he was always simply my Dr. Howard.”

Family is integral to a successful life
Jones was married for 64 years before his wife’s 2005 death. When she developed Alzheimer’s disease in the late 1990’s, he officially retired from the Institute so he could care for her. Their two children have followed in their parents’ footsteps with both being physicians.

Thank you Dr. Jones for your tremendous contributions. Millions of families will forever be grateful to you. May you rest in peace.

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