The legacy of Dr. Howard Jones: a medical pioneer and an ethical visionary

Dr. Howard Jones

Dr. Jones interview on the origins of the ASRM Ethics Committee, 2015

Drs. Howard and Georgeanna Jones at work

Until his death in 2015 at the age of 104, Dr. Jones was Professor Emeritus of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Eastern Virginia Medical School, and Honorary Chairman of the Board of the Jones Foundation for Reproductive Medicine, and engaged with ART’s most challenging issues. He was also Professor Emeritus of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine where he served as Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics, acting Chairman of the Department, and Secretary General of the John Hopkins University Program for International Education.

Drs. Howard and Georgeanna Jones moved to Norfolk in 1978 and accepted the challenge of creating an in vitro fertilization program at Eastern Virginia Medical School. The Joneses are responsible for the birth of the first IVF baby in the United States.

Dr. Jones held key positions in the development of ethical standards for reproductive technologies. He was the first Chairman of the American Fertility Society’s Ethics Committee on Reproductive Technology, a committee he proposed following his and Dr. Georgeanna’s visit to the Vatican as the only American gynecologists invited to participate on a panel to advise Pope John Paul II concerning assisted reproduction. The Ethics Committee’s initial pronouncements on IVF embryos have been fundamental to the development of the laws surrounding IVF and continue to resonate today.

Dr. Jones received his BA degree from Amherst College, his MD degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and was awarded honorary degrees by the University of Cordoba, Old Dominion University, Amherst College, the University of Madrid, and Eastern Virginia Medical School. He was also the recipient of the Medal of the College of France and the Distinguished Service Award of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and an honorary member of over 20 foreign scientific societies, including the Fellowship ad eundem of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Scientists from as far away as Europe, Africa, Australia, Asia, and South America traveled to Norfolk to learn from Drs. Howard and Georgeanna Jones and their colleagues, and many of today’s leaders in IVF were mentored at the Jones Institute.

Throughout his lifetime, Dr. Howard actively explored and promoted not only cutting edge medical developments in the ARTs, but critically important legal and ethical issues such as access to care and continual inter-disciplinary dialogue and efforts focused on how best to advance both the technologies and society.  His legacy as a medical pioneer and an ethical visionary continues.