Our Faculty Spotlight celebrates the institutional partners who make the vital connections that drive the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance’s (MVA) collaborative learning environment.
This August marks the one-year anniversary for Dr. Gary Jones, Interim Coordinator for the MSW program (Master of Social Work) at Tennessee State University. This role allows him to have a direct impact on the lives of graduate students who matriculate through the advanced social work degree. As an advisor, he oversees student orientation, advises, and supports students throughout their educational journey.
Dr. Jones believes that social work is a field with a wide array of possibilities. He points out that social work provides many avenues for bringing about change, such as community work, clinical work, having one's practice, or being a government employee. One of the unique initiatives that Dr. Jones supports is the Library Social Worker. This non-traditional role “equips libraries with devices to help with overdose issues and provide support to the unhoused who may not be able to get to all the different services available” says Dr. Jones. Library social workers can serve as the nodal point to those services and “bridge the digital divide while opening up space for other community agencies to partner with TSU to ensure that people in the community feel safe and supported.”
Looking ahead, he believes that the top values social workers should cultivate today include being flexible, embracing technology, and using data. He also emphasized the importance of health practitioners better aligning with social workers and working collaboratively, “to provide a strengths-based perspective that breaks generational curses and creates systems that do not profit from people’s mistakes or misfortunes,” states Dr. Jones. Instead, he underscores, “I want to give people opportunities to have a well-rounded life and partner with them in their life journey.”
As for the IPE mission, Dr. Jones says, “this program provides an excellent opportunity for students to collaborate with other disciplines and see how different jobs overlap, creating more opportunities for impactful problem solving, and allowing students to meet other students and health professionals.” Dr. Jones believes health practitioners and social workers have a lot more in common than commonly supposed. He believes the initiative will offer unique experiences and support for students and faculty members. Dr. Jones advocates immersive engagement like the IPE program because students receive training from people at multiple institutions without paying extra tuition making it an optimal professional education.
Dr. Jones quotes Nelson Mandela to highlight the importance of partnership across disciplines, “If you want to go far, go by yourself, if you want to have an impact go with a team.” He will make an outstanding new addition to the vibrant faculty advisor group for the IPE program. To contact Dr. Jones, please visit his departmental listing at TSU.
The Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance (MVA) is a 20+year partnership between Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center that serves to advance the shared interests of our institutions and community partners. The MVA is the epicenter of collaboration, capacity-building, and community engagement for health equity in Nashville and Middle Tennessee. With your engagement, we can strengthen our ability to help diversify medicine.