Cardiology researcher Richard Jones, MD, 1918-2005

September 13, 2005

Richard J. Jones, physician, medical researcher, and educator at the University of Chicago and later at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, died from lung cancer on Tuesday, September 6, 2005 at Montgomery Place retirement home on the South Side of Chicago. He was age 87.

Jones was known for his early studies on how diet contributed to cardiovascular disease, his attempts to find nutritional substances that could reduce cholesterol and reverse atherosclerosis, and for his role as director of scientific affairs at the American Medical Association. But he was proudest of his role as doctor and caregiver to his patients.

"He was an old-school doctor who prided himself on his combination of medical wisdom and personal touch," said his son Chris. "Even after his 'professoring' years were over, he thought of himself as a physician educator."

"He was among the first to devote himself to the study of nutrition and heart disease in animals and in man," said cardiologist Louis Cohen, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. "He spent many years searching for natural dietary products that would lower cholesterol and reverse atherosclerosis by way of dietary manipulation, using a substance isolated from the brain that lowered cholesterol in the blood."

Richard Jeffery Jones was born April 6, 1918, in Cleveland, Ohio. He grew up in Buffalo, New York, where his father taught psychology at the University of Buffalo. He earned a bachelor's degree in physics in 1938 from Oberlin College in Ohio, a master's degree in physiology in 1942, and a medical degree in 1943 from the University of Buffalo.
 
Jones came to Chicago in 1944 as an intern at the University of Chicago. He saw active duty with the navy, beginning late in 1944, as a medical officer and was part of the convoy of ships that entered Tokyo harbor at the end of World War II. In 1946, he came back to University of Chicago to complete his residency in internal medicine, with his new wife, attorney Helen Hart Jones. In 1950, he joined the faculty as an instructor in the department of medicine. He became an assistant professor in 1952 and an associate professor in 1958.

During 17 years with the University of Chicago, Jones conducted research into the relationship between diet, cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease. He was involved in many clinical trials in an attempt to lower cholesterol and other risk factors that predispose to coronary heart disease.

The author of more than 50 research studies, editorials, and reviews, Jones co-authored a book, with Cohen--Chemistry and Therapy of Chronic Cardiovascular Disease, which was published in 1961. Jones also edited a textbook, Evolution of the Atherosclerotic Plaque, published in 1964. Additionally, he served for many years as associate editor of Nutrition Reviews and on the editorial board of the Proceedings of the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine.

Jones also saw patients in the University of Chicago Hospitals and was one of the first physicians there to perform cardiac catheterization. He taught medical students both at the bedside and the classroom and raised four children in Hyde Park.
 
Jones left the University of Chicago in 1976 to become director of scientific affairs at the American Medical Association. In this position until 1983, he played an important role in the AMA’s formulation of public policy. While with the AMA, he saw patients at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He maintained his clinical practice there until he retired in 1992.
 
Even in retirement, Jones kept up to date on medical advances and treatments, said his son. He maintained his license until his death and wrote columns for senior citizens in a Montgomery Place newsletter.

He was predeceased by his wife Helen, but is survived by his four children: Chris Jones, Ruth Backstrom, Jeff Jones, and Alexandrea Lyon; as well as nine grandchildren.

A memorial service is planned for the First Unitarian Church of Hyde Park, 5650 S. Woodlawn, 2 p.m., Sunday, September 25, 2005.

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