Cairns comes to UNC from Duke University, where he served from 2004 to earlier this year as associate chief of emergency medicine at Duke University Medical Center and director of emergency medicine research at the Duke Clinical Research Institute.
However, Cairns has deep roots in Chapel Hill. His father, Robert Cairns was a professor in the psychology department in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences from 1973 to 1999 and founded the Center for Developmental Science. His mother, Beverley Cairns, helped launch the center’s internationally acclaimed Carolina Longitudinal Study in 1981. Cairns earned his medical degree at the UNC School of Medicine, where he was a Holderness Medical Fellow. His brother, Bruce Cairns, M.D., is a professor in the department of surgery at UNC and medical director of the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals.
Cairns completed his emergency medicine residency and emergency medicine/cardiology research fellowship at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, Calif. After serving as an assistant professor of medicine at UCLA, he moved to the University of Colorado, where he served as an attending physician in the emergency department and as director of the Colorado Emergency Medicine Research Center. As the center’s director, he developed a research fellowship program and was instrumental in the naming of the center as one of the first three national Emergency Medicine Foundation Centers of Excellence.
In 2000, Cairns received the Outstanding Contribution in Research Award from the American College of Emergency Physicians.