2018 HERO AWARD – HEALTH
2003 HEALTH AWARD HONOREE
Co-Founder, Foundation for the Children of the Californias
Just 45 minutes from downtown San Diego, Tijuana is a world away. The largest city in the Mexican state of Baja, California, it’s one of the fastest growing areas of Mexico with a population of 1.3 million. Most of those residents, specifically children, have never seen the inside of a hospital.
While working with Project Concern International (PCI) in 1976 and studying for her Masters and Doctorate in nutrition, she began donating her time to a hospital focused mainly on the care of adults. During that time, she realized Baja was the only Mexican state bordering the U.S. without a pediatric hospital specifically serving the needs of children. When the Mexican government altered the program she was volunteering at, she and her colleagues collectively put together a plan to bring a permanent pediatric medical center to the region.
In 1994, Dr. Jones helped open the not-for-profit Hospital Infantil de las Californias. It was a modest 2,000 square foot facility located one half-mile across the Mexico-U.S. border with only one employee. Nearly 15 years after receiving the World of Children Health Award in 2003, Hospital Infantil de las Californias is now a 56,000 square foot full-service pediatric specialty center, with 25 specialties and services provided by 160 doctors, nurses and employees—nearly half of whom are volunteers, including Dr. Jones. They also provide medical, education and research programs that include the international exchange of medical technology, plus growth opportunities for professionals, students, families and the community in general.
The center sees approximately 40,000 children under the age of 18 each year—most with little to no medical coverage for surgery and serious illnesses or issues such as eye problems, dental treatment and ancillary conditions such as malnutrition, speech therapy and physical therapy. The staff recognizes that the potential for children with a club foot or crossed eyes to become productive member of society is limited. They are determined to change that and no child is turned away for inability to pay. Patients are grateful for the chance to see a doctor, and often times that their visit is a chance that might not come again for months.
Supporters and skeptics told her that she was embarking on an impossible dream in the early 90s. Today, that dream is still standing and thriving.