Getting to know Lamont R Jones
For AO CMF faculty member Dr Lamont R Jones, otolaryngology is more than just a career. It’s an avenue for sharing his expertise internationally while combating stereotypes and reinforcing positive perceptions of African American males.
Jones didn’t always know he wanted to become a surgeon. As a high school student in Detroit, Michigan (United States), he excelled in science and had his sights set on a career in biomedical engineering. But a teacher’s insights into his talents put him on another path: medicine. When it came time to consider universities, a counselor suggested Xavier University of Louisiana, a private, historically Black university, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology before returning to his home state to earn his medical degree at the University of Michigan Medical School.
“After my first rotation in the operating room, I decided that I definitely wanted to be a surgeon, and what drew me to ear, nose, and throat—ENT or otolaryngology—was the type of procedures they do,” said Jones, who today is a member of the AO CMF North America board, vice chair of the Henry Ford Health System Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, and co-director of the system’s Cleft and Craniofacial Clinic. “At that time at the University of Michigan, there were more African American residents in the ENT department than there were in the bigger specialties like internal medicine, and that made it easier for me to relate.”
The AO journey
It was as a resident and participant in AO basic and advanced principles courses that Jones’ began his AO journey, influenced by AO CMF faculty members Dr Robert Kellman and Dr Sherard “Scott” Tatum, who were his mentors during a fellowship at the State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University.
“I learned a lot about AO techniques from them, and one of the procedures I did was distraction osteogenesis. When I finished my training, I was part of an AO focus group especially on this topic, and that was my first experience with the organization,” Jones recounted. “Soon after, I joined as faculty.”
Jones, who also holds a master of business administration (MBA) degree, said the AO has advanced his career as a surgeon, educator, researcher, and administrator.
“The AO has always been dedicated to teaching, and through my work as AO faculty, I have definitely improved my skills around instructing learners—and I learn from other faculty, too, because every time I participate in a course, I’m surrounded by talented and accomplished surgeons,” he said.
Sharing his talents, changing stereotypes
As he has grown as a surgeon, educator, and researcher, Jones said his career has evolved into more than providing care for one patient at a time—and the AO has been part of that evolution.
“My involvement in the AO has allowed me to teach both locally and internationally, and my specialty training has given me the chance to travel the world and educate,” he said. “Facial plastic and reconstructive surgery has allowed me to do National Institutes of Health-funded research, and I’ve been able to participate in medical mission trips as well with organizations such as Kenya Relief. I’ve been able to spread my talents, gifts, and blessings internationally.”
Jones’ position and his achievements have also made it possible for him to become an ambassador to change stereotypes about African American men.
“It’s rare to see an African American ENT surgeon: African Americans make up about 3–4 percent of all physicians in the US. There are a lot of stereotypes locally and internationally, so I can combat some of those and reinforce positive perceptions by my presence and through the work that I’m doing,” he said.
Jones said he welcomes the AO’s diversity, inclusion, and mentorship initiative, AO Access, and recently spoke at an AO Access webinar.
“The more the AO can demonstrate its commitment to diversity with tangible evidence, the better. You cannot just talk the talk. You have to walk the walk. By promoting and highlighting a diverse group—in this case, the AO’s members—it helps inspire more diverse talents to become active and enter the pipeline,” Jones said. “There is a ton of data to show that patients do better when they seek care or are taught by people they can relate to, so initiatives like this will help the AO’s mission of promoting excellence in patient care and outcomes in trauma and musculoskeletal disorders.”
Practicing medicine is central to Jones’ identity as a surgeon and he says he wouldn’t stop working even if he were “infinitely wealthy.”
“You should choose surgery because you love doing it and would do it even if you weren’t making money doing it,” he advised. “If I were infinitely wealthy, I would still travel the world and provide free surgery for patients. Practicing medicine is about putting others first.”