Dr. AJ Jones plans to retire from Grace Health (GH) at the end of June after more than 25 years of service. He started as the Director of Operations in April 1992 and became the President/CEO in August of that same year. Dr. Jones has been the President/CEO for just over 25 of GH’s 31-year history.
When Dr. Jones took over leadership of GH, there were a small number of staff providing care for just over 900 patients. Grace Health has now grown to the largest non-profit health center in Calhoun County with over 325 staff members providing care for almost 32,000 patients with more than 133,000 visits in 2016.
He saw GH go through a few name changes. It began as North Avenue Women’s Center in 1986, then changed to Family Health Center of Battle Creek in 1992 and later changed to Grace Health 2015.
Dr. Jones wrote GH’s first federal government grant to receive funding to meet the needs of our community members. As a result, GH became a Federally Qualified Health Center. Although Grace Health started by only providing women’s health services, through Dr. Jones vision, direction and leadership additional services have been added to provide health care for the entire family and to meet the increasing needs within the community for access to quality care. GH services now include: Family Practice; Internal Medicine; OB/GYN; Pediatrics; Dental; Ear, Nose, and Throat; Behavioral Health; Vision/Optometry and Podiatry. Physical Therapy will be added within the next few months. Other services provided by GH are: on-site interpreters, Portable Dental, Patient Advocates, Outreach & Enrollment Counselors, Maternal and Infant Health Program, CenteringPregnancy and CenteringParenting, Maternal Oral Health Program, Diabetic classes, Nutrition Counseling, Behavioral Health Group Therapy classes, Reach Out & Read program, and much more. Dr. Jones goes out in the community and meets with GH Executive Management team and Directors on a regular basis to evaluate the needs of GH’s patients and the community and looks for ways services can be expanded to meet the ever-increasing needs. Not only has Grace Health increased services provided in Battle Creek, but it also added a site in Albion back in 2003 which currently provides dental services. In June of this year, Grace Health will add a site in downtown Battle Creek (62. E. Michigan) where family medical care and behavioral health services will be provided.
Constant growth and the addition of services, led to new construction and multiple expansions and renovations. Dr. Jones led and oversaw all construction starting with the move from 632 North Avenue to GH’s current location at 181 West Emmett Street in February 1998. Due to Dr. Jones’ forward thinking, the multiple expansions and renovations that have been done throughout the building helped to increase efficiency and quality of care for patients. The main building (west campus) is now 66,000 square feet and the OB/GYN building (east campus) is 45,000 square feet for a total of 111,000 square feet at the Battle Creek location – the largest Federally Qualified Health Center site in Michigan.
Education is very important to Dr. Jones. He encourages staff to further their education and always strive to learn more. As a result of difficulty in finding qualified Medical Assistants, Dr. Jones started a program at Grace Health in which staff go through several months of training to become a Medical Assistant. He also started an incubator program for newly hired Nurse Practitioners. This program provides a mentor to the new Nurse Practitioner. The mentor answers questions and provides assistance as needed for the Nurse Practitioner. For the future of GH, Dr. Jones is leading GH towards becoming a teaching facility and is working with Western Michigan University residency program. Not only will this help staff increase their knowledge in health care, but it will also result in better care for patients.
Throughout GH’s history, Dr. Jones’ has ensured the mission has stayed the same: At Grace Health, we provide quality health care with the belief that all individuals have the right to considerate services at all times, with recognition of their personal dignity.
Not only has Dr. Jones been the driving force behind all the improvements and addition of services at GH to meet increasing needs of patients and the community, but he has also been instrumental in forming community collaboratives in an effort to decrease gaps in health care services. In 1999, he started the Maternal Infant Health Commission after the close of OB services. He started the Access to Care Group in 2000 which is a group of community members who meet on a monthly basis to assess needs in the community, evaluate gaps in health care and work on solutions for improvement. Dr. Jones also started the CEO Forum in which CEO’s from community organizations meet on a regular basis to share information to help ensure community needs are being met. Over the years, Dr. Jones has served on multiple committees at both community and state level. The committees and Boards he served on include: CEO Forum, The Coordinating Council, Access to Care, Miller College Board, Southwest Michigan Rehab Foundation Board, Southwest Regional Rehabilitation Board, Michigan Primary Care Association Board, Michigan Primary Care Association Membership Committee, Northcentral Neighborhood Planning Council 2, Battle Creek Advisory Nursing Board, Health Care Leadership Forum, Minority Health Partnership, Regional Health Alliance (RHA) Leadership Cabinet, RHA Issue Action Group – Choose Health, RHA Issue Action Group – School Wellness Advisory Group, Substance Abuse Council, Teen Health Work Group, United Way Campaign Committee, United Way Directors’ Association, and Y Center Board of Directors. Although this list is not all inclusive, it provides a highlight of the various committees and Boards he served on to help with improvements in our community.
The Board of Directors, GH staff and patients, wish to publicly thank Dr. Jones for his tireless dedication to GH and our community. We appreciate all that he has done to make a difference.