I read with interest, chagrin, and then disgust the article in the December issue about Dr. Maitland Jones, who taught me organic chemistry — and I mean that, he taught me organic chemistry. I was someone, unlike many in my “orgo” class, who hadn’t already had experience with this discipline. In fact, I had to take inorganic chemistry first because frankly I had no chemistry at all in high school. Everyne knows “orgo” is the make-or-break class for pre-med students, which was my track, and the competition was fierce if not feral.
Dr. Jones made the subject interesting and understandable — so much so that the chemistry wonks did not do better than I did. And my exam first term got one of the highest grades. Why? Because of him. I had an “aha” moment that carbon atoms could combine in a circle to form benzene — I didn’t know that, but his teaching got me to that point on the exam.
I did graduate from medical school and have been a practicing neuro-ophthalmologist for many years. His course didn’t make me a good doctor, but it made me someone who understood that learning facts needs to be coupled with the ability to rework them, and sometimes quickly. This mental facility I see in most good doctors.
You cannot dumb down organic chemistry, in my opinion. I suspect the NYU students were expecting a good grade without putting in the work necessary to master the subject. Dr. Jones called them out and they apparently had the power to pull the rug out from under him. It’s a shame and totally unfair that he ended his career on this note.
Dr. Jones, I want you to know that you are my hero. It’s because of you, and the way you taught organic chemistry, that I became a physician.