Called to serve
Inspired by his family, Alfredo Jones ’98 (human development and family studies) knew from a young age that he was called to a life of service. In his new role as deputy executive director of NYC Health + Hospitals/North Central Bronx, he returned to his native Bronx on a mission to strengthen the hospital’s standing in the community and foster a culture of respect.
With funding secured by his predecessor and the current CEO, Jones is shepherding the hospital through multi-year upgrades to the emergency department, outpatient and inpatient services, ambulatory surgery services, and basic facility updates, such as new windows.
“We’re solidifying the future of our hospital for the benefit of the community,” Jones said, “so that it stays here as a community hospital accessible to all — irrespective of ability to pay, irrespective of preferred or native language, irrespective of culture. We are here to serve the Bronx community.”
Jones held various positions within the same organization before stepping into his new role in May 2021, including overseeing ambulatory care and then as the patient access and growth director for NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem.
There’s an intimate component of undergrad that people take for granted. Folks may not realize the family you build there is family by choice.
The only child of Cuban immigrants from a long line of civil servants, Jones arrived at the College of Human Ecology on a pre-med track. He described his trajectory from then to today as unconventional, but deeply rewarding.
“When I went to Cornell the vision was very linear. Take this 101 class, this 201 class, this 301 class, graduate, and voila — everything is rainbows and unicorns. But that's not reality, right? And for those of us where it doesn't fall in line quite perfectly, it's a little bit jagged, that’s okay, you're going to be fine. I have been really blessed with opportunities to impact programs that have a positive effect in the community and fulfill my calling to serve.”
Stymied by the MCAT, Jones looked for other careers within the world of health care, which led him to a master’s in public health from Hunter College. Since then, Jones has been responsible for public health efforts such as leading a program at New York Presbyterian to provide access to medications to people who could not otherwise afford them and overseeing the operations of NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic in early 2021.
Jones acknowledges it has been an extraordinarily difficult time to work in the health care industry even without taking on more responsibility, but, he said, “once you’ve weathered the worst of the storm you don’t take a step back, you look for ways to move forward.”
In addition to the love and support of his wife, two children, and parents — who still live in the Bronx home where he was raised — Jones relies on friendships, many made at Cornell and spanning 20 years of celebrations, losses, and everything in between.
“My friends from college are all my kids’ uncles and aunts. There’s an intimate component of undergrad that people take for granted. Folks may not realize the family you build there is family by choice.”
In particular, Jones said his male Cornell friends — brothers, he called them — have been an invaluable source of community and communion.
“We've tried our best to always be there for each other in some way, shape, or form and offered a safe place to have discussions about anything. With men who are not quite used to being vulnerable and open, we've created a space to allow for that, to push through some really tough times, and to be each other's cheerleader when it's necessary. There is no price you can put on that.”
Photo at top: Alfredo Jones '98 is deputy executive director of NYC Health + Hospitals/North Central Bronx. He is shepherding the hospital through several major upgrades. Photo: Jesse Winter for Cornell University