James R. Rodrigue, PhD
BA from University of Maine at Farmington – 1982, MS from Fort Hays State University (Kansas) – 1984, PhD from University of Memphis – 1989
Vice Chair for Clinical Research, Department of Surgery, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Boston), Psychologist, Transplant Institute, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Professor of Surgery and Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
I have an NIH- and HRSA-funded research program that centers around one core question: How can we reduce the expanding gap between the number of patients in need of transplantation and the availability of transplantable organs? Specific studies focus on reducing economic and racial barriers in access to live donor kidney transplantation, understanding the full range of outcomes following living donation, reducing barriers to participation in kidney exchange among transplant candidates and potential living donors, and increasing the willingness of adults to join a deceased donor registry. Also, I am actively involved in several transplant societies and policy organizations, including membership on the OPTN/UNOS Living Donor and VCA Committees.
What made you decide to work in transplantation?:
I stumbled into the field of transplantation nearly 30 years ago. The transplant psychologist at the University of Florida left the program and I was asked to step in for him on a “temporary” basis, knowing absolutely nothing about the field. A few exceptionally wonderful colleagues (Drs. William Pfaff, Richard Howard, Alan Reed, Bruce Kaplan, and Gary Davis) taught me so much about transplantation and convinced me that I could make a decent academic career in the field. Nearly 30 years later, I am forever grateful to these giants in the field for the mentorship, guidance, and opportunities they provided to me during the early phases of my journey in transplantation.
What do you find to be the most valuable aspect of your work?:
I am very fortunate to have found a career path that I love and from which I derive so much personal and professional fulfillment. There are so many experiences that I cherish about the time I have spent in this field. Of course, there are many fascinating clinical, scientific, and ethical issues that provide intellectual nourishment. However, I most value the relationships I have in the field. Transplantation is the most transdisciplinary field in medicine and, consequently, I have benefited greatly from my relationships with people from varied professions and the perspectives they bring to the many clinical, scientific, education, and policy discussions. Transplantation provides me with the opportunity to travel the world and to learn from experts in other countries and cultures – these experiences are priceless. The thousands of transplant patients, living donors, and deceased donor families who I have met in my clinical practice and who have participated in my research program over the last three decades have taught me so much about the meaning of life, resiliency, the power of optimism, the importance of a fighting spirit, dignity in dying, the essence of generosity, and gratitude. They are our guiding light in transplantation.
Despite the statements above, if the Boston Red Sox called and asked me to be their team psychologist next spring, I would drop everything and call Fenway Park my home!