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Hematology/Oncology Fellow Awarded Acceptance into Competitive Research Institute

Terrence Jones, MD, a fellow in the Department of Hematology and Oncology, studies curative therapies for patients with sickle cell disease. He looks forward to expanding his research training in the 2024 American Society of Hematology Clinical Research Training Institute.

The loss of several family members to sickle cell disease set Terrence Jones, MD, on a quest at an early age to find a cure for the disease.

“Sickle cell disease has affected my community and family for many years, and because of the disease I have lost several of my close family members,” Dr. Jones said. “My goal since I was young was that I will find a cure for sickle cell disease.”

Now, Dr. Jones is a second-year fellow in the Department of Hematology and Oncology in the UT Health Science Center College of Medicine, with a research interest that focuses on curative therapies for patients with sickle cell disease. He was recently accepted into the competitive 2024 American Society of Hematology Clinical Research Training Institute (CRTI). The institute is a yearlong program for hematology fellows and early-career faculty that provides training and mentoring to enhance careers in patient-oriented research.

Dr. Jones credits his mentors and advisors in Hematology and Oncology including Brion Randolph, MD, associate professor and director of Stem Cell Transplant and Cellular Therapy, Swapna Thota, MD, associate professor and fellowship program director, Marquita Nelson, MD, assistant professor, and Kenneth Ataga, professor and Plough Foundation Endowed Chair in Sickle Cell Disease, for their guidance throughout his process and application for the program.

“I have great mentors and advisors in the program,” Dr. Jones said. “If it wasn’t for the great mentors like Dr. Randolph, Dr. Thota, Dr. Nelson and Dr. Ataga; I would not have known about the many opportunities that ASH has to offer. Great mentorship has helped me and led me down this path.”

Dr. Jones is working with Dr. Randolph on a project to improve outcomes of sickle cell patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplants.

“I am very excited to be working with him on the project. Initially, I was nervous to talk about careers, goals, or projects. Because I had not taken the time to think about them in detail. Since then, he has provided guidance and advice. We have come up with several projects along the way, including this one focusing on patients with sickle cell disease undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplant,” Dr. Jones said.

The project aims to create a conditioning regimen to help minimize side effects of stem cell transplants in sickle cell patients.

“You have to assess the risks and benefits when considering someone for a transplant, and sometimes because of people’s comorbidities, the actual risk of the transplant may outweigh the benefits,” he said. “One of the things this project focuses on is improving a conditioning regimen used to transplant patients with sickle cell disease. We hope to minimize some of the long-term use of immunosuppression and decrease the rate of graft failure while maintaining an acceptable toxicity profile.”

As he begins his experience in the institute, he looks forward to its networking and mentorship opportunities, as well as the training to help organize ideas for conducting projects.

“Some of the things I am hoping to gain would be confidence in myself as a physician-scientist, improving my research skills, the fortitude to complete an independent project, and to collaborate with more peers and mentors to support me throughout my career development towards a principal investigator.” Dr. Jones said.

Dr. Jones graduated from the University of Mississippi with a bachelors in biochemistry. He earned his medical degree and completed his residency in Internal Medicine in the College of Medicine at UT Health Science Center.

Reflecting on his experience so far at UT Health Science Center, he said it has been very personalized for him and his goals.

“I was applying for med school in several different locations and had interviews with some of them and when I interviewed here, I liked the environment. I went home and had a couple more interviews, and this was around the December and January time frame and my birthday was coming up in February. On my birthday, I got a card that said ‘happy birthday, congratulations’ and received the welcome package from UT Health Science Center. From the beginning, it was very personalized. I have been hooked with UT Health Science Center ever since,” he said.

During medical school, he was also accepted into a research program at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and conducted research in South Africa for two years.

“The UT Health Science Center faculty and staff have been very helpful in helping me achieve my goals. It’s been the process going forward from medical school, throughout residency, and now fellowship. I shared with them what I was trying to do, and they put me in contact with people who could help me or pointed me in the direction of someone who could,” he said. “I’ve had a wonderful experience here at UT Health Science Center; everyone has been very helpful in all the programs. What I would tell anyone, is let people know what you’re trying to do or what you want to do, and someone would definitely point you in that direction so that you get there.”