August 23, 2023
Scott James, MD, FPIDS, is Associate Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). He has served as the UAB Peds ID Fellowship Program Director since 2016 and is also Principal Investigator of an NIH-funded laboratory focused on antiviral drug development. He completed his medical school and pediatrics residency at the University of South Florida, followed by a pediatric ID fellowship at UAB.
Dr. James was the 2014 recipient of the Ralph D. Feigin Editorial Apprenticeship, previously served on the PIDS Research Affairs Committee, and currently serves as Vice Chair and Chair-Elect of the PIDS Training Programs Committee. He is Chair of the PIDS Fellowship Training Task Force, represents PIDS on the Council of Pediatric Subspecialties, and is also a member of the PIDS Pediatric COVID-19 Therapies Task Force. He is a member of the Society for Pediatric Research and, in addition to his laboratory-based research program, he is active in clinical research as Co-Investigator on several multicenter trials through the Congenital and Perinatal Infections Consortium.
Why pediatric ID? I felt called to medicine at a young age. Due to my early days as a baseball player, I initially thought of becoming an orthopedic surgeon, but a summer spent serving at a hospital in Kenya changed my life. As I helped take care of children and families, the world of pediatric infectious diseases came alive to me and captured my imagination. From then on, every step of my medical training affirmed my love for peds ID as a subspecialty. The farther I progressed, the more excited I became about all the cool things I got to do in peds ID. Now more than a decade in, I can honestly say that a peds ID career is everything I hoped it would be—and more.
Where have you taken your ID focus? When I’m not taking care of patients (which is still my favorite thing about being a peds ID doctor!), I’ve been focusing my attention on two main areas. First would be my basic/translational research program in the field of antiviral drug development. I get to partner with investigators all over the world to screen and develop new and novel antiviral agents. I love the team science approach, the mechanistic studies, and just being part of the pipeline that helps provide better therapeutic options for viral infections.
The second area I’ve been focusing a lot of my energy on would be related to fellowship recruitment, training, and the future of the peds ID workforce. I know I’m biased, but I think peds ID is the best job out there, so I want to do everything I can to help early trainees see its value and prepare themselves to make a positive impact in a wide range of peds ID-related career pathways. I get to do that locally as a Fellowship Program Director, and, nationally, I love being part of the PIDS Training Programs Committee as we work together to think about these issues on a larger scale. Related to that, I’m also helping lead the PIDS Fellowship Training Task Force, where we are considering creative solutions for rethinking fellowship training in a way that will maintain its rigor while also making it more accessible to potential trainees.
What is a recent development in peds ID you are working on? My antiviral screening work allows me to participate in a (relatively) steady stream of publications, which is a lot of fun. Also, of late, I’ve had wonderful opportunities to contribute to projects related to medical education, particularly as we think through optimization of fellowship recruitment and training strategies (e.g., this Tools for Program Directors article). I was a part of the writing group for ACGME Peds ID Milestones 2.0 and, more recently, I led the ABP’s Peds ID Milestones 2.0 to EPA Mapping Project.
What do you enjoy most about being a PIDS member? What keeps you renewing your membership? I could talk for days about how much I love the wealth of resources provided by and for PIDS members: educational initiatives, conferences, JPIDS, trainee support, funding opportunities, etc., but honestly, the thing I enjoy most about being a PIDS member is the friendships. Our PIDS community is kind of like a family, and from the moment I first joined as a fellow I have experienced a genuine sense of collegiality and camaraderie. I love that no matter what’s going on—whether it’s a clinical conundrum, a research question, or just a need for some life advice—I have a host of peds ID friends across the country who I can call. I don’t take that for granted.