The heart of patient care

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Davis
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

A Keesler doctor is elevating the 81st Medical Group’s health care mission and paving a trail for others along the way.

Lt. Col. Ronald Jones, 81st MDG chief of electrophysiology, is currently the only electrophysiologist serving in the Air Force. He is also one of the only doctors of his specialty serving the Gulf Coast community.

Jones got his start in the Air Force and his start in medical school at the same time.

“There's really only one option that paid you to go to medical school, and that was the military's Uniformed Services University,” said Jones. “This allowed me to get a super sub-specialized training, while taking care of my family.”

He trained for a total of 16 years to become fully qualified in testing and treating problems involving irregular heart rhythms known as arrhythmias.

The heart's electrical system produces signals, or impulses, that control the timing of the heartbeats. Electrophysiologists can use laboratory equipment to create a very detailed map of those signals to detect abnormalities.

Working day-to-day with patients in a clinic has always been the most rewarding part of the job for Jones, so when it came time for a change of station he had an idea.

He worked with 81st MDG leadership to complete half his working hours at Keesler and half at local, civilian hospitals.

“Our overall goal is to ensure our providers, nurses and technicians have the skills required for contingency mission. Having Dr. Jones on staff allows us to take care of patients at Keesler Medical Center we wouldn’t normally be able to see, increasing the readiness of our entire staff. He is also able help patients get access to the care that they wouldn’t normally have in the community,” said Col. Christopher Estridge, 81st MDG commander. “It’s very important to the Air Force to create these kinds of partnerships.”

The collaboration has proven to be beneficial for everyone involved, as Keesler gained it’s first-ever electrophysiology department in addition to the Gulf Coast community receiving a new resource for related health care.

Jones is dedicated to providing top-notch care for his patients and creates an office culture that strives to continually explore and understand the many complexities of the human body.

“He wants our staff, especially the techs, to always be improving,” said Lori McNeil, 81st MDG acute care nurse practitioner. “He continually challenges them to get outside their comfort zones and learn new things.”

Jones enjoys mentoring the next generation of military doctors, understanding that they are the future of medical care in the Air Force.

“I was there once, and you forget how much you didn’t know,” said Jones. “It’s enjoyable to teach people who are actively engaged and who want to learn year after year.”

Jones’ work has expanded the Air Force’s medical capabilities through his specialty. Soon there will be even more advancements to his career field, as a second active-duty Air Force electrophysiologist is currently in training.