A physician’s legacy shines at Dodgers’ Black Heritage Night

Kristofer Jones honored on Black Heritage Night at Dodger Stadium
Dr. Kristofer Jones stands beside a Jackie Robinson display at Dodger Stadium before throwing out the first pitch. (Photo by Nick Carranza/ UCLA Health)

When UCLA Health orthopaedic surgeon Kristofer Jones, MD, stood atop the mound at Dodger Stadium to throw out the first pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Black Heritage Night, it was more than an honor — it was a testament to his journey and the legacy he has built over more than a decade as a Black physician.

Kristofer Jones throws ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium
Dr. Jones demonstrated his own athletic ability by throwing out the first pitch during Black Heritage Night at Dodger Stadium. (Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Dodgers)

“It means a lot to be here on Black Heritage Night, with my two boys, who are two little Black boys who love to play sports and who look up to athletes,” said Dr. Jones. He noted that Black physicians make up less than 1% of the orthopaedic surgery specialty, “so to be able to serve as a role model for Black children who may want to go into medicine, it feels to me a little bit like the way Jackie Robinson took it upon himself to be a role model for Black people who wanted to play baseball.”

Kristofer Jones and two sons tour the trophy room at Dodger Stadium
Kristofer Jones with family in front of Dodger Stadium
Clockwise from top left, Dr. Kristofer Jones, his wife Dr. Myriam Almeida-Jones, and their two sons, Ethan and Owen, pose in front of the Jackie Robinson statue at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by Nick Carranza/ UCLA Health)

Being recognized by the Dodgers on Black Heritage Night, June 15, was a humbling experience for Dr. Jones, who, in addition to being a UCLA Health physician also is the head team physician for the Los Angeles Lakers, and will be the lead physician for both the men’s and women’s U.S. basketball teams this summer in Paris.

“It’s difficult when you grow up and look at different professions, like medicine, and not see people who look like you,” Dr. Jones said. “I was lucky to have some early mentors who helped to break that ceiling for me and who gave me a lot of tips and advice to continue to persevere.”

Dr. Jones’ earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago, where he not only excelled academically, but also athletically as an All-Conference tailback on the varsity football team. He went on to earn his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was awarded the Jonathan Rhoads Prize for Surgical Scholarship. He then completed his residency training in orthopedic surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York City. 

Kristofer Jones as an All-Conference tailback
Dr. Jones, pictured here, was once an all-conference tailback at the University of Chicago before becoming an award-winning orthopedic surgeon at UCLA. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Kristorfer Jones)

“My mentors are two men who I met at HSS — Dr. Riley Williams, who is the head team physician for the Brooklyn Nets, and Dr. Answorth Allen, who’s the head team physician for the New York Knicks. Those two men have been there for me every time I need advice. To this day, they give me tips on how to navigate the landscape of being a physician for professional teams,” Dr. Jones said.

In addition to his professional pursuits, Dr. Jones is passionate about exposing more Black youths to careers in medicine. “It has to start at an early stage,” he said. “Kids in grade school, middle school and high school need to be exposed to different fields in medicine, whether that is to being a doctor, a nurse or a physical therapist. Many of these kids don’t really know that these jobs exist for them.”

Dr. Jones is engaged in programs to bring youth to the hospital, where “we’ll expose them to some of the equipment and show them how we do some procedures, like setting a fracture. Often, they’re, like, ‘Wow! It’s like carpentry, but instead of working with wood I can be a physician and put people back together.’”