Dr. Samuel W. Jones '93 MS has a challenging, rewarding job caring for children and adults who have suffered burns severe enough to bring them to one of the nation's top burn centers.
Patients with severe burns are the sickest people in the hospital. We care for 30 to 50 patients a day, and often admit anywhere from four to seven new patients each day, says Sam, a surgeon and associate director of the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center. These patients have the potential to become gravely ill because the skin is the primary barrier to infection and when that barrier is damaged, infection can become a major complication.
A long, winding route that included tours of duty in both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy, and medical school brought Sam to his current job, which also includes a position as an assistant professor of surgery in the UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine. A graduate of Guilford College, he played football there and also held an Army ROTC scholarship.
He was looking for graduate programs after his first round of military service and heard about UNCG's master's degree in biology, a degree he went on to complete, working with Dr. Rob Cannon and Dr. Steve Anderson. The program was excellent, Sam says.
Sam has been at the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center since 2006, when he returned from duty on a ship in the Persian Gulf and began sub-specialty training in trauma and burn surgery.
During my specialty training, someone asked me if I would also be interested in doing a burn rotation, and I didn't know if I really wanted to do that, Sam says. I knew that at UNC, they took care of adults and children with burns. I was petrified because taking care of adults with burns is one thing, but caring for children with burns is a whole different matter. I signed up for a year and it was tough for several months, but I found that it provided me with what I was looking for in medicine, which is to provide a service for my community, whether it's at a local, state or national level.
Drawing on his mentor experience with Cannon, Sam also serves as a head mentor at UNC-CH to about 60 pre-health science students in the Carolina Covenant, the university's scholarship program for disadvantaged undergraduate students. He also comes back to UNCG once a year to talk to students in Cannon's program.
The life lesson that his job has taught him is, We can't take anything for granted, and that the key to being happy in life is balance. He's married, and he and his wife, Melanie, have two young sons, Treyton and Kaleb. In addition to his family and his job, he also does middle-distance triathlons, which are arduous swimming, biking and running events, for which he trains 15 to 20 hours a week.
My work is what I do, and it is a great job, but it's not who I am, Sam says. I'm a husband and a father, and a coach for my son's teams. That is what's most important in my life family.
Sam tries to pass this philosophy along to medical students and residents, noting that these busy, motivated students often tend to put their lives on hold. They often will buckle down and say I'm not going to do anything else until I finish medical school or until I finish residency, he says. I tell them, You need to have balance in your life.