James O'Dell, MD to receive American College of Rheumatology's highest award

by Vicky Cerino
October 16, 2020

Image with file name: James_O_Dell_Rheumatology_2012.png

James O'Dell, MD, a rheumatologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, will receive the American College of Rheumatology’s (ACR) highest award - the Presidential Gold Medal -- during its annual meeting in November.

The award recognizes an individual for their outstanding achievements in rheumatology over an entire career. Established by the past presidents of the ACR, candidates have made important contributions in multiple areas such as clinical medicine, research, education or administration. Funding support for the award is provided by the Rheumatology Research Foundation.
Dr. O’Dell will receive a one-time, merit-based award and a cash award of $5,000.
"This award is a wonderful surprise, a huge honor and extremely humbling," said Dr. O'Dell, Stokes Shackleford Professor, vice chair of education in the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine and chief of the UNMC Division of Rheumatology. "The award importantly recognizes our entire UNMC rheumatology team and what we have been able to accomplish here over the past quarter century. I’m also very proud of helping establish the ACR’s national disease registry and initiating disease target research fund raising that now raises millions of dollars yearly to support research across the country."
Deb Romberger, MD, Henry J. Lehnhoff Professor and chair of the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine, said the award is certainly well-deserved and is one more way Dr. O’Dell brings recognition to UNMC for scholarly and clinical work in rheumatology.
"The award is another of the many accolades that Dr. O’Dell has received over the course of his outstanding career," said Bradley Britigan, MD, dean of the UNMC College of Medicine. "It is wonderful to see that the American College of Rheumatology recognizes the outstanding clinician, educator and investigator that Jim O’Dell is."
Highly esteemed, his nominators say he is a major figure and contributor to the field of rheumatology and they credit his personality, commitment, intelligence, personal integrity and skills, with both people and science. 
Wrote one nominator: "He is a person of remarkable ability, creativity and competency, he has a quiet and self-critical demeanor who has been a major presence in our field in advancing and improving rheumatology clinical science, training and as an advocate for patients, learners and scholars.
"At his home institution in Nebraska, in the United States, and worldwide, he has made remarkable contributions in improving the lives of many hundreds of thousands of people whom he has touched though his medical practice, his path-breaking research, and through the over three decades of medical students, residents and trainees he has taught." 
Over the past 35 years, Dr. O’Dell has overseen the training of more than 600 internists and 1,000 residents. He served as president of the ACR and of the Rheumatology Research Foundation, its research branch, which Dr. O’Dell calls some of the biggest highlights of his career.  
At UNMC, Dr. O'Dell has served as chief of the division of rheumatology since 1990 and as vice chair of internal medicine since 1997. In his three roles as a clinician, educator and researcher, Dr. O'Dell has trained the majority of internists and many of the subspecialists currently practicing throughout Nebraska. He also has developed medical breakthrough therapies for rheumatoid arthritis, which have been published numerous times in scientific journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine.
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