Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation Executive Vice President & Chief Medical Officer Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., was formally inducted into the National Academy of Medicine on Oct. 7, 2023, during a ceremony held at the academy’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
Membership in the National Academy of Medicine is one of the highest honors bestowed in the field of medicine. Academy members elect new members in recognition of outstanding achievement.
An internationally recognized physician-scientist, James is a member of the academy’s 2022 class. She is the first woman from an Oklahoma institution – and fifth overall Oklahoma-based scientist – elected to the academy. The academy cited her work as “a pioneer in the field of systemic autoimmunity significantly advancing the understanding of how autoimmune diseases start and how immune responses evolve.”
“Dr. James’ leadership in and dedication to the field of autoimmunity has changed lives around the world,” said OMRF President Andrew Weyrich, Ph.D. “She has devoted her life to unraveling some of the world’s most enigmatic and difficult-to-treat diseases. This well-deserved honor recognizes the impact she has made both in the lab and for patients.”
James is best known for her watershed work in understanding early events of and launching prevention trials in autoimmune diseases like lupus. She leads OMRF’s National Institutes of Health-funded Autoimmunity Center of Excellence, one of only 10 in the U.S., and serves as clinical co-chair for the network.
In addition to her role as OMRF’s chief clinical officer, James also leads the foundation’s Arthritis and Clinical Immunology Research Program and holds the Lou C. Kerr Endowed Chair in Biomedical Research. She also serves as associate vice provost for clinical and translational science at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, where she leads a statewide consortium focused on the growth of clinical research to improve the health of all Oklahomans.
“From the earliest days of her scientific training, Dr. James has been a pioneer in understanding the mechanism of lupus. She has also been devoted to improving the health of Native Americans. Her contributions are and will continue to be invaluable to both patients and to NAM,” said John O’Shea, M.D., scientific director of intramural research for the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, who nominated James.
James called her election to the academy one of the most significant and humbling honors of her career.
“This is an incredible recognition not just for me but for every brave patient who has been a gracious partner in studying these diseases and each person who has worked alongside me since I came to OMRF’s campus in 1988,” said James. “I feel an incredible responsibility to keep pushing forward to better understand these conditions, not only to help improve treatments and outcomes for patients with autoimmune disease but also to bring research to all Oklahomans to live longer, healthier lives.”
A fifth-generation Oklahoman from Pond Creek, James earned her B.S. from Oklahoma Baptist University and her M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from OUHSC. She is the third OMRF scientist elected to a national academy: Charles Esmon, Ph.D., was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2002, and former OMRF President Colin MacLeod, M.D., was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1955 and the National Academy of Medicine in 1970.