Alumnus Bill Jones: 'Retirement' brings new role in patient care

man speaking to womanIs it possible to be busier after retirement than before? Can you still be involved in cutting edge innovations in your chosen field? If you’re Bill Jones, then the answer is yes. Jones has been anything but stagnant since his retirement from the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System in 2009.

When Jones started at the VA in 1979, he was the only clinical pharmacist at the facility. That number grew to four in the 1990s and then to 30 by the time Jones moved into the VA National Office where he  worked with pharmacy residency programs and accreditation of new programs. Jones found helping to train residents to be immensely satisfying. In 2006, Jones was selected as the Distinguished Federal Pharmacist by the APhA and was the first VA pharmacist to receive this recognition.

“I greatly enjoyed teaching pharmacy residents…I have seen them enter as brand new graduates and leave as competent and confident pharmacists able to tackle all sorts of practice models,” states Jones. He was the residency director for 112 students prior to his retirement and, since he still knows many of the VA residency directors, he is able to connect students to the directors as they are seeking programs that meet their needs.

Jones always enjoyed direct patient care more than any other aspect of his work at the VA.

“Having patients tell you ‘thank you’ for helping gives a great sense of pride,” says Jones.

Since retiring, Jones has found plenty of ways to keep busy by consulting and volunteering. He recently completed a six-year term with the University of Arizona Alumni Association Council serving the awards committee and membership development as a representative of the College of Pharmacy.

A true Wildcat for Life, Jones completed his BS Pharmacy degree at UA in 1972 and his MS in 1979. His family and friends established the Bill Jones Pharmacy Scholarship and he has continued to donate to the fund and encourages others to do the same to support future pharmacy students. He was awarded the College of Pharmacy’s Mortar and Pestle Award in 2012, which recognizes those who are loyal supporters with a longstanding pattern of giving to the college. He also received the Theodore G. Tong Distinguished Leadership and Service Award in 2013, which recognizes a member of the college whose impact reaches students and members of the profession in ways that demonstrate outstanding service and leadership. man receiving award

Some would be satisfied to display these recognitions in their home and go fishing, but Jones has found a new way to stay active. In late 2012, he accepted a part-time position with the Arizona Center on Aging to be the clinical pharmacist for a program called Primary Care at Home. The program is the part of The Healthy Together Care Partnership which centers around those patients who are most debilitated from their chronic or mental health conditions.

“This past year has been a great time working with a wonderful group of dedicated people. Many times, we hear talk about working in teams, but this group is really an embedded team. We are able to talk about the patients to whom we all are providing care. We share all comments and concerns about patients on a regular basis. It is a blast to be part of this group of healthcare providers,” says Jones about the program.

In the program, the team assesses patients eligible for Medicare and Medicaid and finds ways to coordinate care for some, and to become the primary care team for others. The team consists of a nurse practitioner, a registered nurse, a community health worker, a clinical social worker, a behavioral health specialist, an administrative assistant and a clinical pharmacist. The team is overseen by the medical director of the center, Mindy Fain. Jones’s role is to evaluate the drug therapy of the patients. The team has been successful in substantially reducing the number of emergency room visits and hospitalizations for those in their care.

See the article on the UA Interprofessional Education and Practice website entitled  “It Takes a Village: Healthy Together Care Partnership’s First Year” for an in-depth look at what these teams do.

smiling man and woman in front of lake.

The teams are proving to be quite effective.  The first 20 patients enrolled in the program had a cumulative total of 19 hospital admissions in the 12 months prior to the team’s becoming their primary care source. The same patients had only two hospital admissions in the following nine months. 

“This was a truly integrated effort from all members of the team,” says Jones.

Jones is also still active in teaching at the College of Pharmacy. He participates in the section on hypertension and rheumatology as a teacher, as well as a discussion group faculty facilitator. Jones teaches and facilitates in the UA College of Medicine, as well.

Retirement has allowed Jones to do some of the things he was unable to do when he worked full time. Jones says he now has more time to garden, and he and his wife, Anita, took a trip to Glacier National Park last July. He has been able to do volunteer work, and has consulted with programs that are beginning residency training.

“I don’t really feel retired. It’s true that I’m not working but I’m doing fulfilling things – and I’m having fun.”



Story by Rebecca Wingate

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