Remembering David Kline Jones

We were deeply saddened to learn that David Kline Jones, a board member of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law and a beloved professor who dedicated his work to health justice, died on September 11, 2021, at age 40. Here, JHPPL’s editor Jonathan Oberlander offers a remembrance of David. David’s obituary is available here, and all of his articles published in JHPPL are temporarily free to read in his honor.

I have known David Jones since 2007. The very first email he sent me ended with the confession that he had never before worked for a Boston Red Sox fan (for what it’s worth, I’m not sure I had ever employed a New York Yankees fan).

David was my student and research assistant at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during his Master’s program (following in the footsteps of his mother, Debra, who I also had the pleasure of teaching during her DrPH studies). He was a collaborator on articles we published together, both during and after graduate school (David earned his PhD at the University of Michigan). He was a member of Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law’s editorial board. He was a friend. And he was always a delight to be around (except when the Yankees were winning).

I was shocked and devastated to hear the news that David had died in a tragic accident. David was so full of life that it is impossible to absorb the reality of something so seemingly unreal. Anyone who knew David knew that he was a loving partner to his wife, Sarah, and amazing father to his children. I cannot imagine their pain and loss, and my heart breaks for David’s family, friends, and his many colleagues at Boston University and beyond.

I will remember David as an exceptional scholar who cared deeply about health care access, justice, and equity. In his brief career, David produced a remarkable amount of compelling work illuminating the dynamics of American health care politics, federalism, the intersections between politics and the social drivers of health, and much more. David had a knack for asking important research questions—and then answering them in eloquent, persuasive ways.

I will remember the joy and exhaustion on David’s face when he came to take a final exam—straight from the hospital, where Sarah had given birth to their first child. I will remember years later the beaming smile on his face when I asked him to sign a copy of his first book (David recently finished writing a second book). And I will remember his bemusement when I tried to convince him to name a child after Tom Brady, then the quarterback of the New England Patriots, another Boston-area team David rooted against (actually, my wish sort of came true on that one).

I will remember David as having an inherent optimism and a wonderful, contagious spirit, as someone who was generous, decent, and kind. And I’m not alone in that sentiment. In the aftermath of David’s death, there has been an extraordinary outpouring of grief, reflections, and memories from his friends, students, and colleagues. It is not a surprise given who David was to see how many lives he touched. Yet it is nonetheless remarkable to see the sheer magnitude of the testaments, especially from those he taught and mentored. They give me hope that we can in our own work and lives carry forward some of David’s spirit and light.

And that’s the best way to remember David.

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