University of Nebraska Medical Center

James R. O'Dell, MD, MACR, MACP

Robert L. Grissom Professor of Internal Medicine
Vice Chair for Education, Department of Internal Medicine
Chief, Division of Rheumatology

Dr. James O'Dell

Dr. O’Dell received his undergraduate degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in electrical engineering. He received his medical degree and completed a residency and chief residency in internal medicine at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine. Dr. O’Dell completed a clinical and research fellowship in rheumatology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver in 1984 and is board certified in both internal medicine and rheumatology. Dr. O’Dell founded and has directed the Rheumatoid Arthritis Investigational Network (RAIN) for the last 25 years.  RAIN is a group of rheumatologists who conduct investigator-initiated trials to find better treatments for rheumatoid arthritis. This research network has pioneered the use of combinations of medications to treat rheumatoid arthritis, was one of the first groups to describe genetic factors that predict response to therapy, and has done extensive work with the use of minocycline in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. O’Dell is the PI of the large multinational RA research study based at the VA through their cooperative studies program. This trial which also has National Institutes of Health funding is comparative effectiveness research at its best in a double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trial.

Dr. O’Dell has published extensively, mostly in the area of rheumatoid arthritis with three first-authored NEJM papers on RA trials and authored “Drug Therapy: Rheumatoid Arthritis” for the New England Journal of Medicine as well as the 2010 RA: Update for the Annual of Rheumatic Disease. The RACAT trial (NEJM 2013) won both the ACR Silver Fork award and the AF Howley Prize (most impactful arthritis research 2014). He has presented frequently at national and international meetings and has more than 150 published articles in top-level rheumatology journals.  He has received many awards for teaching excellence, was recently honored with the Nebraska ACP Laureate Award, a distinguished Scientist at UNMC, and was recognized as a UNMC Educator Laureate in 2019. In 2008 he received the Department of Internal Medicine Career Research award.  He has served on numerous American College of Rheumatology (ACR) committees over the last 20 years including time on both the ACR and REF BOD as well as a two-year term as President of the Research and Education Foundation of the ACR and was President of the College (2011-2012), and in 2020 he received the ACR Presidential Gold Medal (the Colleges highest award). Additionally, he is editor in chief of Up To Date for Rheumatology and Editor of the Textbook of Rheumatology.


  • Investigator-initiated clinical trials in Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
  • Clinical trials and treatment of Gout
  • Clinical Trial Design
  • Predicting response to therapy in RA
  • Value-based care for RA
Current Roles
  • Director and Founder, Rheumatoid Arthritis Investigative Network (RAIN)
  • Director, NODES, VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System
  • Vice-Chair, Education, UNMC Department of Internal Medicine
  • Division Chief, Division of Rheumatology, UNMC
  • Division Chief, Rheumatology, VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System
  • Medical School: University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Medicine, 1977
  • Residency: Internal Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center, 1980
  • Chief Resident: Internal Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center, 1981
  • Fellowship: Rheumatology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, 1983
  • Fellowship: Research, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, 1984