First Generation Student Spotlight | Joanne Jones, MBA
Skip to main content

First Generation Student Spotlight 
Joanne Jones, MBA

January 11, 2023

The Office of Diversity and Community Relations celebrates the unique accomplishments of first generation students. This series features PCOM faculty, staff and students who were the first to attend college, graduate school or medical school within their families. We believe spotlighting our first generation community members will encourage our students to use their talents to shine during professional school and as future healthcare providers.

Joanne Jones, MBA

Joanne Jones, MBA, Campus Officer - PCOM South GeorgiaAbout Joanne Jones

Joanne Jones joined the PCOM family in 1985 as a medical assistant for the Cambria Healthcare Center. Within 10 years Jones was promoted to practices manager for the PCOM Healthcare Centers. She eventually transferred to the Department of Graduate Medical Education where she spent 18 years overseeing daily operations, assisting in residency program development and serving as the College's designated institutional official. In 2018 she was selected as the campus officer for PCOM South Georgia, the brand new campus location in Moultrie, GA.

How do you define first gen?

Although I am the first to graduate from college in my family, it did not occur to me that it was such an accomplishment until I was sitting at my son's graduation from the University of West Georgia in 2017. During the ceremony they asked all of the first generation students to stand, and it was a large portion of the class. It struck me at that moment that my expectations of my son were higher because I had a college degree. He has now completed his master's degree and is working in Birmingham and happy with his career choice.

Tell us about your journey to healthcare/medical education.

Growing up I wanted to be a nurse until a guidance counselor in high school told me I was not “college material”. Not knowing any better, I thought she was right. Not being sure what to do, I was going to look into a technical school when one of my sister's friends, Debbie Felton, saw me one day and asked what my plans were after high school. She was quite surprised when I was not going to college, and I told her about my conversation with the guidance counselor; she certainly did not agree. Debbie was involved with the alumni association and mentioned that there were scholarships available and I should look into the local community college. She also called the high school and helped me change my guidance counselor.

I did not have the prerequisite classes for the nursing program but was accepted into the medical assistant program; my brother and sister were very supportive of my decision. Upon completion of my associates degree, I started employment at PCOM.

I think everyone needs a “Debbie” in their life; surround yourself with positive people.

Tell us about your experiences in graduate school.

After realizing that career opportunities were available to those with degrees, I finished my bachelor of arts degree which gave me the confidence to start a master's program. My goal was to complete that prior to my son starting second grade. I think each level of education is really about persistence and not listening to anyone around you giving you negative feedback.

What was it like as a first-gen college student graduate?

Looking back it truly was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders; I was really not sure I could do it. I think the pressure I put on myself was unfair, and I was very proud of my accomplishment.

Many first-gen students feel a notion of enormous pressure to succeed. How did you combat it?

I think I put more pressure on myself than anyone else. I knew that obtaining my degrees would enhance my career and earning power…that would give my son a better life. I think that working at PCOM with colleagues that had advanced degrees helped me; they were always so supportive and eager to help.

What are some of the external pressures that impacted your journey?

When I received my associate's degree, I started working at PCOM in the Health Care Centers and then got married the following year (way too young). While working with the PCOM fourth year medical students, I knew that I needed to complete my bachelor's degree. At that time I was the same age as our medical students and realized that many of them overcame obstacles to get to where they were, and that gave me the confidence to go back and complete my degree.

I started evening classes, had a baby and got divorced before completing. I like to think that I was so busy being a mom, working full-time, going to school…I did not have time to think about all of the external pressures and just plowed through everything with the help of my family.

Do you have any advice for graduate/medical students, particularly first-gen students?

Don’t listen to the people that say you cannot do it, and don’t be afraid of change. Change will be a constant in your life; embrace it even though it is hard at times. It helps you grow and molds you into the person you want to be.

What have been your most important, proudest and/or favorite experiences in your career?

Now that I have worked for PCOM in different positions over my 37-year career, graduation season is my most favorite. Knowing that I have had a small piece of the student or resident training; knowing that every employee/faculty makes a difference in someone else's dream as they walk across the stage gives me great joy! I am so proud of our students and residents; they have a special place in my heart.

Learn more about PCOM