Health Disparities and Chronic Disease in Mississippi

Black patients were losing limbs at triple the rate of others. The doctor put up billboards in the Mississippi Delta. He could save their limbs if it wasn’t too late. Nobody knew it in January, but within months, the coronavirus has swept the United States and have killed tens of thousands of people, put at risk by an array of factors, from unequal health care access to racist biases to cuts in public health funding. These elements have long driven disparities, particular across the South. One of the clearest ways to see them is by tracking who suffers diabetic amputations, which are, by one measure, the most preventable surgery in the country. The federal government forgives the student loans of some doctors in underserved areas, but not certain specialists; so the physicians most critical to treating diabetic complications are in short supply.

Despite the great scientific strides in diabetes care, the rate of amputations across the country grew by 50% between 2009 and 2015. Diabetes undergoes 130,000 amputations each year, often in low-income and underinsured neighborhoods. Black patients lose limbs at a rate triple that of others. It is the cardinal sin of the American health system in a single surgery; save on preventive care, pay big on the backend, and let the chronically sick and underprivileged feel the extreme consequences.

Dr. Michael L. Jones is the founder of Jones Healthcare Solutions, LLC and serves as the Senior Consultant and Trainer. Michael is responsible for assisting individuals and organizations in addressing various healthcare issues to improve health outcomes for populations. Michael began his career in health care as an Orthopedic Nurse at the sole Academic Medical Center in the state of Mississippi, the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He later served as a Spinal Cord Injury Nurse at a major rehabilitation center in the state of Mississippi. After caring for many underserved patients, Michael developed a passion for ensuring these populations not only have access to care, but also positive health outcomes. As such, he has dedicated himself to improving the health of populations. Michael has served in various capacities throughout his career in health care and nursing, including as Chief Community Health Officer for the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where he developed programs and led many projects aimed at addressing health disparities in the state of Mississippi. During his tenure as the Chief Community Health Officer, Michael oversaw a partnership between the sole Academic Medical Center and the largest Federally Qualified Health Center in the state of Mississippi. Michael has served on various boards and committees and has been recognized for these efforts. He was the recipient of the Mississippi State Medical Association Award for Excellence in Wellness Promotion in 2013.

Michael currently serves as Adjunct Faculty for the Jackson State University School of Public Health (Jackson, Mississippi), where he serves faithfully and with a passion to educate the state’s future healthcare administrators. Michael has also served as an Adjunct Nursing Faculty member in various schools of nursing. Michael has given a number of presentations and lectures on a local, state, and national level related to the elimination of health disparities.

Michael received his formal education from Meridian Community College (Meridian, Mississippi) and the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Nursing (Jackson, Mississippi). In March of 2020, he successfully defended his dissertation titled “Perceptions of Rural Community-Based Nurses and Perceived Family Stigma Related to HIV/AIDS: A Mixed Methods Study” at Hampton University School of Nursing, which is an HBCU (Hampton, Virginia). Michael became the first African-American male and only the third male to successfully defend a dissertation in the PhD Nursing Program at Hampton University. Michael is also the first African-American male to earn a PhD in Nursing from an HBCU. On April 8, 2020, Dr. Jones had the opportunity to interview during the Positive Vibes Only segment of “Beyond the Headlines with Renee Washington” of Fox Radio. During this interview, Dr. Jones discusses the historic significance of earning his PhD in Nursing at Hampton University, his career track, and COVID-19.