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James Goodwin, MDSenior Associate Director of the Sealy Center on Aging

George and Cynthia Mitchell Distinguished Chair of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Geriatrics; Co-Director, Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center 

James S. Goodwin, M.D. is currently the George and Cynthia Mitchell Distinguished Chair of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. He attended Amherst College and Harvard Medical School, spent much of his early career at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, and since 1992 has been in Galveston. He has published more than 400 scientific articles that have been cited by other investigators more than 46,000 times. He has also written a number of essays related to medical issues, published primarily in the Lancet, JAMA, and Annals of Internal Medicine. There are links to copies of some of these essays below.


301 University Blvd Galveston, Texas 77555-0133
Phone: (409) 747-1987 FAX: (409) 772-8931
E-mail: | Abbreviated CV

Research Areas

  • Comparative effectiveness of cancer care in the elderly
  • Recovery of function after hospitalization
  • Overutilization of medical tests and treatments
  • Assessing individual provider performance with administrative data


  • 1967 Psychology Cum Laude, BA, Amherst College, Amherst, MA
  • 1971 MD, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA (Aesculapian Society; class vice president; graduation speaker)
  • 1997 Management Development Program, Wharton School, Philadelphia, PA


By James S. Goodwin, MD

  • Second Thoughts: Old People in Hospitals"Good medical care for the elderly is not something that teaching hospitals are very good at." 1983

  • The Tomato Effect"The tomato effect in medicine occurs when an efficacious treatment for a certain disease is ignored or rejected because it does not 'make sense' in the light of accepted theories of disease mechanisms and drug action." 1984

  • Second Thoughts: CPR"In the end, it may be the conversations that we force ourselves to have with ourselves and with each other that determine whether these activities lead us to a numbing sense of lost empathy or to a broader, more objective, more executively effective view of our patients' lives and of ourselves." 1985

  • Mercy Killing: Mercy for Whom? "We know nothing of the inner experience of the patient with Alzheimer's disease." 1991

  • Chaos and the Limits of Modern Medicine, "Our traditional goal is to help, to heal, to cure. Diagnosing and understanding the disease are one means to that need. But in modern medicine, there is a disconnect: diagnosis and understanding have acquired value independent of their possible usefulness in helping the patient." 1997

  • Switching Sides"Societal decisions about major issues, such as the reimbursement structure for medical care, represent the sum of individual opinions, which, in turn, are the product of individual experience. My opinion has changed. National health insurance works pretty well. The mess that we call managed care does not. I am switching sides." 1998

  • Being a Doctor or Being a Son, "I can try to be a good doctor, and I can try to be a good son, or husband, or father. But I cannot be both with the same person. It is too confusing. The rules get all mixed up." 1999

  • Email: Fighting Back"Can the geniuses of cyberspace turn their efforts to developing a censorship chip which, instead of censoring pornography, would identify and eliminate all vapid communications?" 1999

  • Airports"If shopping malls have become the new churches in our consumer society, perhaps airports are our funeral parlors... Not in Venezuela. Here, travel is still invested with the passion and uncertainty of great exploration." 2000

  • In Praise of Insecurity"Real self-esteem is the inner feedback one gets from doing the right thing. Most of my octogenarian patients possess considerable self-esteem. They have earned it." 2000

  • Galveston Dogs"Several dogs looked up as my car approached, and slowly ambled out of the way. I knew then that we would move to Galveston." 2001

  • Life Lessons from the Texas Kitchen"In Texas, power resides in the kitchen, which is ruled by the female who is oldest, cognitively intact, and in the direct bloodline of the original owner of the land... the first seated are less important than the last standing... So it is in life, or at least in medical centers. Status is determined by busyness." 2001

  • Making Doctors"I have been ruminating about this recently since it became clear that none of our children will be doctors... Perhaps children do emulate their parents - follow in their footsteps. Perhaps it is the parents who are in error, not recognizing their own footsteps." 2001

  • Narcissus Drowned"Modern life is reminiscent of a class of fairy takes in which the genie grants three wishes, but the recipient always manages to mess it up by over-reaching, by wishing for too much and causing all sorts of unintended consequences." 2001

  • Nobility, "Whatever my initial emotional reaction to patients, it is difficult for me to dislike any of them for a prolonged period. I get to know them too well. They become far too interesting." 2001

  • Ambling Towards Nirvana"Sauntering is a simple but all-consuming act. Hustling, hurrying, rushing-this is all about the future, ignoring the present to get to the future. But is the future worth the rush, worth the sacrifice of the present?" 2002

  • Breaking Bad News"Why did I do that? It was almost an assault. I knew that he did not want to talk about death, and I almost always do what my patients want. But this time something snapped, and I pushed the bad news on him." 2002

  • Hurricanes Make You Happy"When it comes right down to it, the accouterments of modern life don't really cut it. It takes a hurricane to cheer us up." 2002

  • Language and Medicine: Thinking and Talking about Alzheimer's Disease"Restricting the term Alzheimer's disease to those under 80 should allow all of us to think and talk more clearly about the cognitive changes that affect the majority of men and women who are fortunate enough to achieve very old age." 2002

  • First in His Class"Martin possessed a rare attribute. He was not afraid to answer... No, he answered all the questions, answered them thoughtfully and specifically, and, in many cases, incorrectly." 2003

  • God Only Knows"'Sorry, I don't have the talent for religion,' seems so inappropriate when a patient grasps my hand and asks me to pray with her." 2003

  • Lost at Sea"All this humanity, and not just humanity, Texas humanity! One boat, 1500 Texans." 2003

  • The Gravedigger"I go to my patients' funerals whenever possible. It is a way of showing respect for the patient and the patient's family... Nothing in these funeral-going experiences prepared me for grave-digging, however." 2011

  • Body Language"We have lost the sense that we have to accommodate - to make compromises, to change course- when we come up against a biological limitation... Reading the body's cues is a good skill for physicians. Teaching our patients the language of their bodies may introduce them to an entire lifetime of enriching internal conversations."

  • Sex and More Sex"Sex has always confused me. When I was growing up sex was hidden, high risk, and a little bit dirty, and that didn't seem right."