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Vital Signs

Investigator Insight

In this section, we highlight the human side of biomedical investigation, putting a few questions to a researcher at DMS-DHMC.

James Gorham, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Pathology and of Microbiology and Immunology

Gorham studies autoimmune hepatitis in mice, looking at how T-helper cells develop, get into the liver, and release an inflammatory protein that causes liver damage.He's also a board-certified clinical pathologist and spends 20% of his time on the transfusion service. He joined the DMS faculty in 1998.

How did you decide to become a researcher?
As a boy, I was always interested in science. In college I decided to pursue biomedical research. But I didn't want to be just a "lab rat," so I pursuedmy dreamof getting anM.D. and a Ph.D.—at New York University School of Medicine—and, well, here I am. Clinical work is a great counterbalance to the pace and tenor of the lab.

What got you interested in immunology?
As I was completing my M.D. training at Bellevue, I realized that many patients suffered fromailments that had, at their core, an immune system that had "gone wrong"—being either underactive (as in AIDS) or overactive (as in autoimmune diseases). I decided that if my work was to make a difference in people's lives, immunology was a good subject.

What do you ultimately want to discover?
The hows and whys of autoimmune disease.

What nonwork activities do you enjoy?
Tennis and downhill skiing. On most winter Sundays, I'm at the Dartmouth

Skiway teaching 5-year-olds in the Team Spectra Program. I also love watching pro baseball and football; it's easy this year to be an avid Red Sox and Patriots fan. I also like to read and spend time with my kids.

Finish this sentence: If I had more time I would . . .
Develop a better net game in tennis to complement my good serve.

What are your favorite books and movies?
I like to read mysteries and science fiction. Orson Scott Card is my current favorite sci-fi author. I like all sorts of movies. Some of my favorites are The Sting, the Godfather series, and L.A. Confidential.

Hollywood is doing a movie of your life. Who plays you?
Jeff Goldblum. He makes a convincing scientist-type, and he's a lot taller than I am.

What about you would surprise most people?
I'm a pretty good trumpet player. I used to play in a five-piece Klezmer band with another doc from DHMC, an M.D.-Ph.D. student, and two Dartmouth undergraduates. The undergrads got their diplomas and moved on, the other doc moved away, and, alas, we broke up. But, hey, so did the Beatles.

What is the greatest frustration in your work?
The decline of federal funding for biomedical research. Unless we restore funding soon, the research infrastructure that was so carefully cultivated over the last 30 years will decay; then major advances, leading to quantum leaps in the understanding and treatment of disease, will be a thing of the past.

Are there any common misconceptions about your field?
Many people confuse autoimmune hepatitis with viral hepatitis (like hepatitis C or B). "Hepatitis" refers to inflammation in the liver, which can be caused by infections, autoimmunity, toxins, alcohol, etc.

What is a talent you wish you had?
Painting. When I walk down the hall at DHMC and see the beautiful work by local artists, I'm awed at the talent. I can't draw a straight line.

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