By Irene Seiberling
Dr. Denis Jones seems to be able to do it all … and well. He’s a critical care physician, a builder, a property developer, a business owner, a community volunteer, a philanthropist and a family man.
“I am as committed to one as the others,” Jones said with a smile.
And his words ring true, according to those who know him best. Whatever role he takes on, Jones appears to give it his all, they agree.
Surprsingly, his father wasn’t pleased when Jones announced his intentions to pursue a career in medicine. He was hoping his son would take over the family construction business.
“But he got the last laugh,” conceded Jones, who is now both a doctor and builder.
He insisted he doesn’t favour one role over another. “I love them all … They are like your children — you love every one of them, but you have challenges with each one.”
Born in Zambia and raised and educated in South Africa, Jones first came to Saskatchewan in 1991 as a family physician in Regina. He was one of the city’s first critical care associates. And he helped grow the city’s critical care program from just two positions to more than 20.
In 1996, he decided to specialize. So he left Saskatchewan and went to Miami to do an internal medicine residency. Then he went to San Diego to do his respirology and critical care fellowship. When he finished in 2002, Regina gastroenterologist Dr. Jim McHattie managed to convince Jones that the right thing to do was to return to Regina and take up the position of department head of the newly formed department of critical care.
Dr. Denis Jones and his wife Lindsay in their home in Regina.
“Prior to that, the critical care section was under internal medicine. But the trend nationwide was to break it out as its own department,” Jones explained.
McHattie led the pack recruiting Jones to return to Saskatchewan.
“When we were in need of an intensivist, he was at the top of the list,” McHattie said. “We were very fortunate in him being attracted here.”
Jones returned in 2002.
“With his background, Denis could have gained employment anywhere in the world, but he chose Saskatchewan,” McHattie said. “That says quite a bit about him, too.
“He’s provided exceptional leadership, organized the intensive care areas to the level of excellence that they are now.”
Another feather in both Jones’ and Saskatchewan’s cap, McHattie said, was Jones getting published in the New England Journal of Medicine soon after returning to the province. His paper pertained to a particularly difficult form of lung disease.
“And he continues to provide that kind of leadership and spark that any good medical centre needs,” he said.
Dr. Denis Jones (right) at a Deveraux Development site with Operations Manager Vince Maletta looking over site plans in the Harbour landing neighbourhood in south Regina.
McHattie praised not only Jones’ critical patient care, his interest in research and “administrative excellence,” but also the man himself. “He’s a very good person. And you don’t always get such a well-rounded individual. He’s very committed to the patients, plus he has all the other aspects that are so important.”
Jones was head of the department of critical care from 2002 until 2008. He then resigned, but maintained an active membership in the department and continued to practice medicine full-time. “But I dropped the administrative duties,” he said.
His break from administrative duties only lasted until 2010, when Jones agreed to take on the position of deputy senior medical officer — but only on an interim basis. And he didn’t seek reappointment when his term was up.
By this time, his business interests had become far more demanding.
“I just didn’t have time to practice, and do administration, and do my business ventures,” he said.
Jones still maintains a full-time critical care practice.
“In Canada, we typically do one week on (and) one week off. And then there’s a month of vacation. So you’d only be doing 20 to 22 weeks a year, which is what I currently do,” he explained.
Jones turns 50 this year. “The goal is that I will transition out of (critical care) by the time I turn 55. It’s a demanding specialty,” he said. “The hours are demanding. It’s extremely rewarding, but it’s so demanding on your personal life.”
Jones said he wants to have more time to spend with his wife Lindsay, who he described as “a Saskatchewan girl,” and their children Aiden, 9, Logan, 8 and six-year-old Madison.
Even with his current busy schedule, Jones said he manages to make it to the majority of his kids’ activities.
“Lindsay is a huge part of it. If I didn’t have her in my life, it would not be possible,” he said. “She does so much. If it was not for her, I would not have the opportunity to do the glamorous work, because she does all the hard work.”
With Lindsay’s support, and her brothers Jared and Jamie McDougald as junior partners in his group of companies, Jones is constantly looking to grow his business ventures. He credits the people around him for his ongoing success. “We have built a good team around us.”
Jamie McDougald described Jones as “a man of great passion. He’s driven to succeed, and think outside the box and be creative in all his endeavours.”
Jones entered into business in Regina in 2003, buying a Western Pizza in the Glencairn neighbourhood. In 2005, he bought a Western Pizza on Broadway Avenue. He eventually sold the Glencairn pizza business to its manager, but still owns the Broadway Avenue location.
In 2008, he opened the Roof Top restaurant, which he sold in 2011.
In 2005, Jones got into property development, renovating older apartment buildings and doing condominium conversion. In 2006, he started acquiring apartment buildings. And in 2010, he started building his own apartment buildings.
“Deveraux Developments has now built over 1,000 apartment units in the city,” he said proudly. “Actually, by the end of this year, we’ll have build almost 1,300 apartment units.
“We are also building just shy of 600 apartment units in Winnipeg currently.”
Dr. Denis Jones at Sterling Manor in east Regina.
Deveraux functions as a private corporation, which is largely held by Jones and his business partner, Kevin Gelsinger. They started the company in 2007.
Prior to Deveraux, Jones’ development projects were done independently. “I would buy these apartment buildings and hire an external general contractor,” he explained. “In 2007, I figured that I’d have more quality control and more time control if I did it myself. So that’s when I partnered up with Kevin, who was running a home-building company at the time.”
They have a number of limited partnerships within the city.
“All of our apartment buildings are held by people in the community. So we raise capital within the community and we invest it into our apartment projects, and pay a return to our investors. That’s the model that we use,” Jones said. “We have over 103 partners now, extending from Vancouver to Montreal.”
“In 2010, we realized that we needed to start managing our own apartments, and we formed Altern Properties, which is a property management division. So we provide all of our property management and maintenance to our own properties.”
The company is branded around rethinking what rental properties should be like. “Rental today doesn’t have to be like rental in the past,” he said, explaining that instead of offering dark, old apartments, the focus is on providing new apartments containing the luxuries people want, such as central heat, central air, full-size appliances and in-suite laundry.
“And we’re able to do that at a very small premium to 40- or 50-year-old apartments,” Jones said. “It’s all focused around community development.
“Our focus in rental has been to bring a better quality of product to our tenants.”
Dr. Denis Jones in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) at Regina General Hospital.
Jones also uses his rental properties to help those in need. For example, units are provided for Syrian refugees at significantly reduced rent. “It has been a nice opportunity to give back,” he said.
Despite his demanding work schedule, Jones manages to find time to donate to community fundraisers and charities.
“I think that’s key,” he said. “I think it’s so important to give back to the community we live in. I came here as an immigrant 25 years ago, and Canada has treated me extremely well.
“I arrived here with two suitcases. Those were my entire life possessions, and the airline lost one of them. I was 24 years old.”
“Canada took me in, and I’ve never looked back. It’s been a wonderful country for me. It’s provided me and my family with tremendous opportunities.
“So we feel very strongly – myself and my group who work with me — about being very focused on the community.”
Jones praised the people who help him. “I couldn’t do what I do without the support of not only my partner, Kevin Gelsinger, (but also) my senior executive team, who are key to what we do and how we do it. I think all of us are focused on the community, in whatever way we can help.”
The list of causes and charities Jones supports is long. And his focus isn’t just in Regina; his generosity extends to Saskatoon, as well.
Still, he’s apologetic that he can’t do more.
“It doesn’t mean the others are less deserving, it just means that there’s only so much time in the day,” he said.
Dr. Denis Jones (right) at a Deveraux Development site with Operations Manager Vince Maletta in the Harbour landing neighbourhood in south Regina.
Much of his focus has been children in need and moms in need.
“Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of time raising money for Hope’s Home, which is for medically challenged children and their parents — being able to provide a safe environment for parents to leave those children with medical needs, and let them go out and be active members of the community.”
Jones met Hope’s Home founder Jacqueline Tuscher working in the intensive care unit. “It’s been a very strong bond. So when she approached me and asked me for help, it was a no-brainer,” he said.
When he owned the Roof Top, Jones closed the restaurant to host Christmas parties for moms and children seeking temporary shelter at My Aunt’s Place. Management cooked the Christmas dinner, and Lindsay made sure there were Christmas gifts for each child.
“It was a real emotional time, just to see these children react to that small act of kindness,” Jones recalled.
He continues to support women and children in need — specifically those exposed to domestic violence — through his involvement with the Bowties & Sweethearts Gala, which supports the Leader-Post Christmas Cheer Fund. Jones was recruited by Karl Fix, who spearheaded the fundraiser.
"Canada took me in, and I’ve never looked back. It’s been a wonderful country for me. It’s provided me and my family with tremendous opportunities."
— Denise Jones
“Anytime he’s ever asked to be involved in anything to serve the community, he’s never hesitated,” Fix said. “He embraces the charity work he’s involved in and is an integral part of making it a success … It’s how he approaches everything in life … Whatever he takes on, it’s important to be successful.”
In Saskatoon, Jones is a major supporter of the Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan and Ronald McDonald House.
“We take a portion of our proceeds from every house we sell and it goes to the Ronald McDonald House and construction of their new facility in Saskatoon,” he said. “This was an important thing for us, because with some of the pediatric services in Saskatchewan being centralized to Saskatoon, you have more and more families needing to go to Saskatoon for high-level care.
“And families can’t afford to go to hotels for weeks and weeks while they’re attending to their sick child. So we really felt that the Ronald McDonald House was an essential part of this. So we provide ongoing support to them.”
Finding enough time to do everything is what he finds most challenging, Jones said. But he’s up for the challenge.
And he’s determined to continue his efforts in Saskatchewan.
“We’re here to stay,” he assured.