Dr. Barbara Jones

Barbara Jones
  • BS Biological Sciences 1992
Barbara Jones is a dog's best friend. And a cat's, too.

She's a pushover for strays. She is their advocate and protector. They give her purpose as she strives for their good treatment, and she wants to extend that standard around the world.

Jones, who graduated in 1992 with a bachelor's degree in biology, found her calling - to be a veterinarian - while in the Peace Corps in Papua New Guinea from 1992-94.

"I was often disturbed by the poor treatment of village dogs," she says. "It is a place of great need in terms of animal welfare."

Jones describes Papua New Guinea as one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. Pets are not common; but guard dogs, and scavengers are. In general, the diet of these dogs consists of "scraps tossed their way."

Jones says that in other countries around the world, millions of what she calls "companion animals" - in Papua New Guinea that's mostly dogs - "suffer from overpopulation, neglect, malnutrition, disease, inhumane population-control methods, and inadequate veterinary care.

These animals, she says, also threaten human health. In China, she points out, rabies from dog bites is the number one infectious cause of death (more than HIV, tuberculosis, or influenza).

"The problems facing companion animals in many poor developing countries," she says, "are far worse than many of the problems facing companion animals in the US, even when we consider the tragedy of millions of animals being euthanized in this country for lack of a home."

She believes, however, that Papua New Guinea is a place where change is possible. "The people are generally very kind. With education and assistance, I believe they would be happy to provide better care for companion animals. I made a promise to myself that I would return to help do this."

She says that there are many other kinds of animals suffering around the world - farm animals, wild animals, and zoo animals. "I am also concerned about them, but, in order to avoid diluting my skills, I've chosen to focus primarily on companion animals."

They are simply her charge: "As a veterinarian, I am obligated to, among other things, use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, and the promotion of public health" - all aspects of the veterinary oath.

That ethic is complemented by her abiding guide in life, Desiderata. "Go placidly amid the noise and the haste," it teaches. Jones goes dutifully amid the need and the care.

She's not certain when that will lead her back to Papua New Guinea, but she's prepared: she earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Prince Edward Island in 2004 and a certificate of residency training in animal shelter medicine from the University of California, Davis, in 2008.

Jones says that while she was at Michigan Tech, she was young and naive and simply wanted to make a lot of money. Service in the Peace Corps, she says, was her "first worthy goal." In Papua New Guinea, she taught school and learned about herself. "I changed. I learned that all of us, everyone, has an obligation to make the world a better place. I gained a feeling of responsibility for the world.

"I developed a clear vision of what I wanted to do and how I wanted to contribute. I wanted to utilize my interest, my passion, in medicine and biology, to improve the world for animals."

She wants to ensure the humane and sustainable treatment for stray dogs and cats; standards for animal shelters; prevention and control of diseases in shelter populations; stress reduction; population management; sound record keeping; and collaboration between veterinarians and shelter managers.

Already she has outlined this goal to Brazil, Israel, Romania, and Japan, where she wants to expand shelter medicine.

Her work is indeed a labor of the heart. "With many animals," she says, "there is an innocence, a helplessness, and a beauty. They're not able to speak for themselves." They can't defend themselves except in a basic way. It's easy to victimize them. They provide a fantastic opportunity for us to be compassionate and to do the right thing."

Meanwhile, she has fond memories of Michigan Tech and likes to reminisce about her Delta Zeta sorority sisters, the snow, the cold, the skiing - and Ron Gratz, associate professor of biological sciences. He had a marked influence on her and helped steer her to join the Peace Corps. "He was fantastic," Jones says. "He was my most important role model. He really, really helped me."


Written January 2009