Psychologist optimizes patient health in organ transplant program

By Francie Williamson, Communications Coordinator, Department of Psychiatry

Jody Jones, PhD, says when she started her career in clinical psychology in the late 1990s, not a lot of organ transplant programs had a dedicated psychologist on staff.

“I had literally never heard of anything like that before. But I was completely intrigued,” she says.

After completing an internship at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Jones realized that working with transplant patients was what she wanted to do.

Her role at UI

For the past 13 years, Jones, a clinical associate professor of surgery, has worked with both living donors and transplant recipients at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.

“There really are different psychological issues that go along with the different organ types in transplant, so coming here afforded me the opportunity to work with all the different organ programs,” Jones says. “And I’m originally from Iowa. Even though I hadn’t lived here since I was 7 years old, I thought it might be cool to come full circle.”

Before donating or receiving an organ, the patient is required to undergo a psychological evaluation. This has been shown to help both organ donors and recipients achieve the best possible outcome. Once the team has a better understanding of these mental health issues, appropriate interventions can be introduced to help facilitate a successful transplant.

Some types of issues Jones encounters in patients are mood disorders, psychotic disorders and substance use issues.

A collaborative process

In her role as a transplant psychologist, Jones often interacts with employees of other departments, including the Department of Psychiatry.

“I love getting the different perspectives,” Jones says.

Claire McKinley, MD, who is finishing a fellowship in consult-liaison psychiatry at UI Hospitals & Clinics, says she has learned a lot working with Jones.

“I've learned a lot from her example, by watching her interact with our patients and listening to her talk about those interactions after the fact. She's a very flexible thinker and always open to changing her mind about something when presented with new information,” McKinley says.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022