People

Edith Irby Jones, M.D., repeat trailblazer who made history at Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine and beyond, dies at 91

She was the first black student in the South to attend a previously all-white male medical school


By Alexandra Becker | July 16, 2019

Edith Irby Jones, M.D., the first black student in the South to attend a previously all-white male medical school, has died. She was 91.

The five-foot-tall pioneer was admitted to the University of Arkansas medical school (now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences) in 1948 and became its first African American graduate in 1952. She made history in 1959 by becoming the first black woman resident at Baylor College of Medicine, though she remained segregated with limited patient rosters and finished her internal medicine training at Freedman’s Hospital (now Howard University Hospital) in Washington, D.C.

In 1985, she was elected the first female president of the National Medical Association—which was founded nearly a century before in 1895 to represent black physicians.

Born in 1927 near Conway, Arkansas, her father died when she was eight and her older sister died in childhood of typhoid fever. In interviews, Jones cited those tragedies as her inspiration for becoming a doctor.

Edith Irby Jones in Haiti in 2000. (Photo credit: National Institutes of Health)

In a career spanning more than five decades and reaching far beyond medicine into social justice, Jones ran a practice in Houston’s Third Ward and served many who could not afford to go anywhere else for medical care. She continued teaching and practicing medicine at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston (now McGovern Medical School at UTHealth) and at Baylor College of Medicine for many years. During her trailblazing career, Jones also established medical clinics in countries outside the United States, including Haiti, and worked with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as one of the “Freedom Four”—a group of professionals who traveled the South encouraging people to join the civil rights movement, according to her Baylor College of Medicine biography. She retired in 2014, according to the Texas Medical Board.

“Dr. Edith Irby Jones was a pioneer for African-American women in medicine,” Alicia Monroe, M.D., Baylor College of Medicine’s senior vice president of academic and faculty affairs, said Tuesday in a statement. “She not only inspired future doctors, but she also contributed to the health and well-being of the Houston community and beyond. She focused on the underserved community in Houston and was also an activist in the civil rights movement, influencing people across the nation.”

In a 2006 interview, Jones confirmed her resolve to become a physician at a young age.

“I was going to be a different kind of doctor,” she said. “I was going to be a doctor in which money wasn’t going to make any difference with me. That I was going to particularly see that those who did not have money, those who were less fortunate, would get the kind of care that they needed—that I was going to do it as much as I could do it, and I was going to instill into others that they must do it, too.”

In 2014, Jones was interviewed by the Texas Medical Center Library as part of their Women’s History Project. The full transcript and audio can be found here.




Social Posts

profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

When Donna DeVries came to MD Anderson for triple-negative #breastcancer treatment, she was impressed by the courtesy and kindness she experienced.Now, as an employee, she provides the same service she received as a patient: https://t.co/ZOg3LTH9Yo #CancerMoonshot #endcancer

21 mins ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

RT @BCMHouston_News: Be sure to watch @FOX26Houston tonight at 10:30pm! Dr. Atif Iqbal @AtifIqbalMD, a surgeon with @bcmhouston and Baylor…

23 mins ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

VA MISSION Act: Answers to questions about VA’s urgent care benefit https://t.co/L31AO9PngM via #VAntagePoint

32 mins ago
profile_image

Texas Children's

@TexasChildrens

Delivered at 34 weeks, Dane was born with a large omphalocele. @TXMedCenter shares how @TexasChildrens music therapist, Alix Brickley, has recorded Dane’s heartbeat to create an original song for his family: https://t.co/9REJ7nblPO

32 mins ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

RT @McGovernMed: The Department of Orthopaedic Surgery Concussion Program strives to improve patient outcomes by advancing how concussions…

42 mins ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

RT @UTPhysicians: The holidays are a joyous time, but it can come with dreaded anticipation for those who experience social anxiety. We've…

42 mins ago
profile_image

CHI St. Luke's Health

@CHI_StLukes

RT @BCMHouston_News: .@bcmhouston @CHI_StLukes @BCMNeurosurgery Dr. Jeremiah Johnson and Dr. Peter Kan talked with @HoustonChron about the…

46 mins ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Dr. Bethanie Shannon Van Horne looks at the opioid epidemic's impact on Houston in this week's @BCMEthics Policywise post. https://t.co/9QmIeFJ0Sc #opioids #opioidepidemic https://t.co/rMFmkqf0zG

1 hour ago
profile_image

Texas Children's

@TexasChildrens

The FDA has approved a new ear tube product that may allow children to avoid surgery for chronic infections. Dr. Anna Messner, FACS, FAAP, division chief of pediatric otolaryngology at @TexasChildrens, shares more via @Healthline: https://t.co/a3m8sKhq7d

1 hour ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

RT @RiceEngineering: These faculty members from @RiceUniversity's School of Engineering are ranked among the world’s most highly cited rese…

1 hour ago
profile_image

Texas Children's

@TexasChildrens

Since she was 4 years old, Jackie L. loved dancing Ballet Folklórico. But while at a dance competition, suddenly she didn’t feel well. Soon she would be diagnosed with an advanced case of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Read Jackie's story: https://t.co/g43cDOvgDn #ThisisCancer https://t.co/42yjhKJmaT

2 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

.@Myeloma_Doc shares the latest projects of our #MultipleMyeloma Moon Shot, including a vaccine aiming to induce anti-myeloma immunity: https://t.co/j7oHrnLsJG #CancerMoonshot #ASH19 #endcancer

2 hours ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @EnrollatUH: From first-gen students to future chart-topping musicians to Coogs interested in changing the world through science, chance…

2 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Veteran, Vet Center outreach specialist gets new home https://t.co/CvJSyTrmJa via #VAntagePoint

3 hours ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

@DrSethJenny Appreciate the shout-out.

3 hours ago