Better Aging through Research
Dr. James Goodwin
Dr. James Goodwin was a self-described
“young, hot-shot investigator” when he
stumbled into his life’s passion.
It began as a purely scientific interest in
why some people stay so healthy in old
age. Goodwin was a rheumatologist and
junior investigator at the University of New
Mexico whose ground-breaking work on
control of immune function earned him a
large National Institute on Aging grant for
a longitudinal study of people over 70 who had never suffered
a serious illness and were not on prescription medications.
But as the study stretched on nearly two decades, Goodwin’s
interest turned into something deeper. “I realized that I was
really looking forward to meeting with these people for checkups,
just listening to and talking with them,” he says. “They say
wisdom grows with age, and I really found it fun.”
Goodwin joined UTMB in 1992 ready to build something that
would benefit this “increasingly fascinating” group of people.
What he’s built—in collaboration with investigators from every
department at UTMB—is the Sealy Center on Aging, one of the
top aging research programs in the country.
Keeping older people self-sufficient longer is the center’s
overarching goal, particularly as the first Baby Boomers enter
retirement expecting more services and more studies to help
them maintain their independence.
To meet this growing need, the center’s 60-plus investigators
have three primary areas of focus. One is helping to address
rising health care costs by conducting research designed to
determine which among current practices, such as screenings,
work best. Another is unlocking the mystery of the “Hispanic
Paradox,” the phenomenon that has the nation’s fastest
growing minority group living longer than their health
indicators would suggest.
Finally, through UTMB’s Claude D. Pepper Older Americans
Independence Center, a multidisciplinary team of scientists
is systematically studying rehabilitation after the illnesses
or injuries that often debilitate older people, including the
devastating downward spiral caused by age-related muscle
The program is also closely linked with UTMB’s nationally
ranked Acute Care for Elders unit in John Sealy Hospital.
Goodwin’s goal is to have every patient admitted to the
ACE unit also admitted into a research study “so we’ll have
ongoing discovery there.” In fact, despite his busy research
schedule, Goodwin maintains an active clinical practice in the
ACE unit—not because he needs to, but because he wants to.
“I feel incredibly blessed and privileged to spend a lot of my
time with older people,” he says.