"I'm Just a Little Black Girl Living in the Segregated South"

Josephine Bonita Isabel was blessed to be born March 7, 1940 to proud, loving
parents, George Taylor and Ethel Harris Isabel, and to proud big brother, George Jr., and
proud big sister, Ethel Lois!  She was born and grew up in Memphis, Tennessee where
she was educated in the Memphis City Schools – Lester Elementary School, with
middle school years at Lutheran Cooperative School, and, as the Isabel Family tradition,
Booker T. Washington High School.  That she was very bright became obvious at a
young age in that she bypassed fifth grade and remained at the top of her classes
throughout graded school, graduating co-valedictorian of her large  high school class
and winning full scholarships to LeMoyne College.  After her third year LeMoyne she
gained early admission to both Meharry Medical College and University of Tennessee
Medical College.  She chose to matriculate at Meharry.  While at Meharry Medical
College, she was the recipient of several scholarships and honors including election into Alpha Omega Alpha National Medical Honor Society.  

“Dr. Jo”, as she was affectionately called, completed internship at D. C. General Hospital and returned to Memphis where she became the first African American resident at the University of Tennessee Medical Center.

Becoming the First Black Female Pediatric Cardiologist

Dr. Isabel-Jones completed a fellowship in pediatric cardiology at UCLA, becoming the first African American woman board certified in that specialty. She continued her entire career of more than 50 years at UCLA progressing to professor emerita of pediatrics and an assistant dean emerita of student affairs at David Geffen School of Medicine. 
Her pioneering spirit became apparent as she introduced many procedures to the pediatric cardiac catheterization laboratory and started the first pediatric echocardiography laboratory at UCLA.  In addition to her faculty responsibilities, she
served on advisory boards of national professional institutions and organizations including the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association.  
Throughout her career she has received numerous honors and awards including:
Alumna of the Year from LeMoyne College, the Ruth Temple, M.D. Community Service
Award and the first Lifetime Achievement Award from The Association of Black Women
(ABWP), The Minority Health Award for Community Service, the Fair & Open Academic
Environment Award by UCLA Academic Senate Committee on Diversity &
Equal Opportunity, and the UCLA Medical Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award.
The UCLA Black Alumni Association honored her with the Jackie Robinson Trail Blazer Award.

Most of Dr. Jo’s life she has been committed to social justice, equity, diversity, and
inclusion.  As an undergraduate student, she was one of the organizers and original
participants in the students’ civil rights movement of the ‘60s whose arrest in the
Memphis Public Library led to the desegregation of the library and other public
facilities. Throughout her career and even in her retirement she has been committed to
recruitment, admission, and retention of underrepresented minority students to medical
school. She continued to participate in efforts to achieve diversity, equity, inclusion,
and prevention of discrimination on departmental, school, and campus-wide levels. Dr. Jo was appointed by the chancellor to serve as a member of the Moreno Report Committee to address diversity challenges for faculty and students at UCLA.  
She founded and chaired the first faculty diversity committee at David Geffen School of
Medicine and developed the Intergroup Dialogue to Enhance Action on Diversity (IDEA)
with workshops to address implicit bias in mentoring women and minority faculty
members. These were pioneering efforts, and Dr. Isabel-Jones was years ahead of her
time in her work on diversity and inclusion.

Continuing to Break Boundaries & Inspire Lives

Dr. Isabel-Jones’ work in providing medical care to children with congenital heart
disease in the underserved global community has been an inspiration to many. For several years (1970s-1980s) she volunteered her services as a pediatric cardiologist at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Hospital serving indigent children with congenital heart disease in South Central Los Angeles. She has had a long-standing interest in medical mission work, having learned of it as a child in Vacation Bible School from missionaries. As a senior student in medical school, she volunteered for 6 weeks to help provide medical care in a poor rural area, Mt. Bayou, Mississippi.  She served as advisor to public health and medical students, recruited other physicians, and traveled with the team to the Old Mutare Mission of Zimbabwe in 1992.  In 1997 she was part of a team of pediatric cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, anesthesiologists and intensivists who provided medical services and health education in Arequipa and Lima, Peru. Over several years she was part of the Peru Medical Mission, Corazones con Esperanza (Hearts with Hope), to Arequipa.Being recognized for her outstanding career as a pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Jo received the 2021 Helen Taussig Founders Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Dr. Jo is cited by many graduates of UCLA School of Medicine as a role model in the development and success of their careers. 
She was the recipient of the Sherman M. Mellinkoff Faculty Award from the UCLA School of Medicine. 
This very prestigious award, named for Dean Emeritus Sherman M. Mellinkoff who was dean of the school for over 25 years, is given to the faculty member “whose teaching exemplifies the individual’s dedication to the art of medicine and to the finest
doctor-patient relationships”. 
Dr. Isabel-Jones, selected from a faculty of over 1700 members, was the second female and the first African-American honored with this
award. Even in her semi-retirement, she for the past several years received the Outstanding Tutor Award for exceptional commitment to problem–based learning by the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Where is She Now?

Since her second and final retirement, Dr. Jo received the UCLA Carole E. Goldberg Emeriti Service Award which honors extraordinary service and highlights the recipient’s distinctive achievements in service to the university, their department and community through their respective fields. She has continued community involvement having served as chairperson of an administrative committee in her church, Holman United Methodist Church, and serving as co-chair of the Health Committee of her chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Other recent awards include the ABC, Inc. Spirit of the Heart Trailblazer Award and the Camp del Corazon Legacy of Service Award.

Jo’s love for dance became apparent from age 8 years old when she began ballet which she enjoyed through high school.
As an adult she and husband, Earl M. Jones, have shared the joy of dancing and can be seen on the dance floor at every opportunity!
From the prime of life and well into her senior years she has felt blessed to be a part of the liturgical dance ministry in Holman Church and the opportunity to share that experience over time with 2 of her daughters and 4 of her grandchildren! In an effort to remain in good physical health, Dr. Jo does virtual zumba under the direction of daughter, Jessica (Dr. Jessica Jones Guthrie) and includes occasional hip hop fitness! Over the years she and husband, Earl, have enjoyed a great life together, raising their four children, enjoying the company of 9 grandchildren, in church work, traveling with family and the Double Ring Club (a couples group started over 50 years ago!), bicycling,
bowling, playing tennis and softball, and as sports spectators.


Jo’s spiritual development started from a young age under the guidance of her parents.
She was mature enough in her faith to join church on her own initiative and decision at
age 7 at Mt. Pisgah Church in Memphis where she held membership until relocating to
Los Angeles when she and Earl joined Holman Church.  Starting as a college student
she taught Sunday School for over 30 years.  She has continued her spiritual growth
through participation in DISCIPLE, an intense 5 year curriculum of Bible study and her
work with Hannah’s Descendants, CWIP, Inc, both of which she has looked upon as opportunities to transition from her career of healing bodies to a mission in healing souls.


American College of Cardiology
https://www.acc.org › articles › 2021/08/01 “Leading With Grace: The Story of Dr. Josephine Isabel-Jones”