Measuring Human Response to Real-life Situations Leads to Real-world Solutions
The impact of chronic disease is vast – and all negative. Gary James can attest to the fact that chronic disease is a burden to our healthcare system and to our society. That’s why his studies of high blood pressure and stress – two major contributors to chronic disease -- can help change the future of healthcare.
It’s true. Children can drive you crazy, or at least raise your blood pressure and stress levels in very predictable ways between their infancy and adulthood. Collecting the physiological evidence to support that statement is just one of the many ways Gary James has coupled his interest in human health and development with his technical expertise to yield information that matters.
James, director of the Institute for Primary and Preventative Health Care at Binghamton University, began his academic career in anthropology and currently holds joint faculty appointments in the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science as professor of bioengineering, and in the Decker School of Nursing as professor of nursing and anthropology.
During 30 years of research and teaching, James has combined myriad skills and interests to yield data on the nature and effects of high blood pressure and stress, two of the most common contributors to chronic disease. His work is preparing graduate engineers to face the 21st-century challenges presented by chronic disease -- a dominant issue in healthcare that consumes the vast majority of healthcare dollars, personnel and facility usage.
James views his anthropological and biomedical engineering sides as complimentary. “People don’t live their lives in laboratories, so my goal has been to devise ways to use real-time measurements of subjects’ responses to things in real-life situations in order to yield real-world solutions,” he says.
For six years, James concerned himself with the real-world issue of risk versus benefit in his position as chair of the Human Subjects Research Review Committee. “The role of the committee is to make sure subjects in research protocols are fully informed about the risks and benefits of their participation and that the research is conducted under an ethical standard. When I was chair, I worked to promote a balance – protecting the subjects, but also employing a proactive approach with the investigators to get them in compliance with government regulations so they could get their research done,” he says. “When that research is practical, reliable and ethical, everybody wins.”
Generous with his insight and energy, James combines his many interests to collaborate on research as diverse as ambulatory blood-pressure monitoring and its effect on hypertension management, an assessment of smoking cessation in pregnancy, and stress-induced consequences of familial breast cancer risk.