A Passion for Mending Lives
For Margaret Jones ’99, every day of work is “filled with promise” as she helps patients with neurologic injury to regain quality of life and independence. Her work has taken her to cities around the country, and along the way, she’s visited all 50 states.
Q — What have you been up to since graduating from Durham Academy?
A — Life after DA has been filled with travel, exploration, education and ongoing activities in the outdoors! I earned a B.A. in biology with minors in English and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, where I was a four-year student-athlete on the varsity swim team. After a year back at Duke as a research assistant, I returned to Penn to complete a post-bac while I coached swimming as an assistant coach for my old team. I then left the Northeast to complete med school at Tulane. I spent four years in New Orleans, watching the city grow in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and then moved to Seattle to complete a residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Washington. After that graduation, I left the West Coast for a quick year to complete a fellowship in spinal cord injury medicine at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, New Jersey, prior to moving back to Seattle. I recently moved to Nashville.
Q — What are you doing now?
A — I’m a traveler and just moved! After some wonderful years in the Pacific Northwest living and working in Seattle, I recently moved to Nashville and now work at Vanderbilt. I provide care as a doctor for people with spinal cord injury and other major neurologic injury, such as traumatic brain injury and stroke.
Q — Why do you do what you do?
A — The doctors in my specialty are called “physiatrists”; our goal is to impart improved function and independence to our patients with impairments. I’m lucky enough to provide care for a special group of patients as they work through catastrophic injury and devastating life changes to get back to a quality of life, independence and a “new normal.” My patients are sharp, goal-oriented and motivate me to come to work every day. Even better, I love that I get to work with an interdisciplinary team of therapists, nurses, psychologists and social workers to collaboratively provide for our patients. Every day is filled with promise, and no two days of work are the same.
Q — What DA experiences influenced you or helped you get where you are today?
A — DA taught me to be a prepared, organized student at school and in life. Notebook checks in Mr. Seivold’s sixth grade showed me the importance of organization. Mr. Cullen showed me the beauty and value of cohesive teamwork and respected leadership. And in Mr. Sullivan’s AP Chem class, on day 1 he said he was coaching us to do well on our AP exam; that forward-thinking and goal-setting set the tone for my lifelong educational pursuits and the way I work with my patients and rehabilitation team. On top of all that, DA’s outdoor education programs opened my eyes and world to the beauty of hobbies in the outdoors!
Q — What are your interests away from work?
A — I had to step away from some of my previous athletic pursuits in running and triathlon due to an injury and now am so lucky to spend a lot of free time exploring the beauty of where I live through hiking, getting outside with my dogs and taking road trips as much as I can. I’ve visited all 50 states, almost all of them since my time at DA, with visits to as many national parks as possible. Last year, I was lucky enough to take an amazing trip to Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, where I did a “multisport adventure” trip with REI. In a way, I felt like I was back on all my trips from the DA Upper School: one day spent kayaking, another biking, a few others hiking … all while camping! Or, I guess it was probably more “glamping”… but it was amazing!
Q — What’s on the horizon for you?
A — I look forward to continuing to expand my medical practice and learning while teaching medical students, residents and fellows in spinal cord injury medicine, to exploring the world around me and to making it back to Durham as often as I can to spend time with my family and friends who are still there!