Dr. Jim Evans: Educator, Clinician, Researcher and Tar Heel
Dr. Jim Evans is a familiar face to UNC-School of Medicine students as we have the pleasure of getting to know him in our very first block of first year, Molecules to Cells. In addition to being a dedicated educator Dr. Evans is a prominent physician researcher and embodies the rigorous scholarly thinking promoted by the Holderness Distinguished Medical Scholars Program.
Dr. Evans first became involved in research as an undergraduate. As a chemistry major at the University of Kansas he hoped to participate in summer research. To find a summer research position he “literally went to the Yellow Pages” to look up chemistry labs, Out of over 30 applications he was accepted to a single lab studying red blood cell membranes. Dr. Evans said that summer “changed my whole career.” Prior to that experience he wasn’t considering a career in medicine. He said his work in that first lab made him realize that there was an appeal to work that was directly relevant to human illness that made medicine very attractive.
While Dr. Evans continued research throughout his undergraduate years and medical school he says that his “best and most important training was at UNC when [he] came here for internship and residency.” During this time Dr. Evans worked in a hematology lab, where he says he “really learned molecular biology.” With regard to his mentors Dr. Evans says that the common characteristic shared by his most valued mentors is that they have been passionate and retained their “child-like enthusiasm for science.” He says that these mentors helped him appreciate both the beauty and power of science, inspiring and stimulating him, making him feel that he was capable of making an impact.
As both his clinical and research careers have progressed Dr. Evans says he has gotten more focused on trying to pursue things that are of tangible benefit. He says “When I was younger just the science seemed good enough as motivation...There’s a satisfaction in trying to contribute to health and peoples benefit that has grown richer as I have gotten older. That has gone along with my research gradually becoming far more clinical.”
Additionally, as his academic career as progressed Dr. Evans has transitioned from mentee to mentor. As a mentor Dr. Evans reminds himself daily to be critical of his own ideas and hypotheses and does the same for those he mentors. He tries to impart on younger researchers that science boils down to “thinking up experiments that are designed to destroy your own hypothesis.” Dr. Evans also reminds future clinical investigators to think creatively and warns against getting caught up in “group think”. As both a clinician and an investigator Dr. Evans urges students pursuing either field to “be hard-nosed about evidence, to not be seduced by your own ideas and always recognize that you could be wrong.”
As a true Tar Heel, Dr. Evans recognizes the unique and special environment at UNC.
“The community here of students and physicians is wonderful and rare.” He says. “It’s one where there is a lot of mutual support and warmth and enthusiasm and I really like that, it’s a wonderful environment here. We’re all lucky, and yet you can’t take for granted the sense of teamwork, enthusiasm and collegiality that exists; it’s just as fragile as it is important and powerful. We we should appreciate it and perpetuate it.”
By Rebecca Macfie