Congratulations to professor of public health James Metcalf on 50 years at Mason

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Jim Metcalf

On behalf of the George Mason University College of Public Health, congratulations to James (Jim) Metcalf for 50 years as a dedicated faculty member. Metcalf has been a part of the Mason Nation since August of 1973 and has seen the university develop into a leading academic institution.  

“When I came here, I was young and energetic. Now I'm old and energetic, and I continue to love it here and even though it's different, I've really enjoyed the way it's changed,” said Metcalf. “For me, it was always in the cards that Mason would be something special.”  

Metcalf earned his BS, MA, and PhD in physical education at the University of Maryland. He completed a minor in biological sciences during his undergraduate career, an applied statistics minor during his master’s degree, and earned a doctoral cognate in zoology over the course of his PhD. He came to Mason from Federal City College, now the University of the District of Columbia, where he was an associate professor and director of the school’s first-of-its-kind exercise physiology laboratory.  

After two years at Federal City College, Metcalf joined Mason one year after Mason became independent from the University of Virginia in 1972. His early work across the university places Metcalf among the leading pioneers in making Mason the interdisciplinary institution it is renowned for being today. Metcalf wrote across early curricula, served as a teacher consultant, and was a part of a team of science faculty dedicated to alternative general education. 

“The faculty, myself included, were largely young and enthusiastic. We built curricula and served on interdisciplinary committees. I connected with colleagues across disciplines and made many friends along the way,” said Metcalf. 

Traversing Disciplines

At Mason, Metcalf began teaching exercise physiology and kinesiology in the Department of Health and Physical Education (HPE) in the School of Education. Throughout his time at Mason, Metcalf served as an instructional faculty across multiple departments. After his time in the HPE, Metcalf joined what was formerly the College of Nursing and Health Sciences teaching clinical physiology to nursing students. He also taught in the honors program previously. 

Shortly after coming to Mason, Metcalf established a cardiac rehabilitation program alongside colleague Dr. Robert Matthews with funding from the Virginia State Department of Vocational Rehab. The grant, which funded one student fellow each semester, was consistently awarded to Mason students. Metcalf was able to support numerous students with stipends to become cardiac fellows. The center is now operated by Fairfax Hospital.  

At present, Metcalf acts as a full-time professor in the Department of Global and Community Health in the newly named College of Public Health. He currently instructs GCH 332 Health and Disease as well as GCH 360 Environmental Health. 

As Metcalf has traversed across departments, his hopes for his students have never wavered. In his classes, Metcalf encourages student creativity and individual expression. 

“I once had a student in one of my GCH courses who came to me and told me she was a painter. I had recently assigned an essay and she expressed to me she would like to do her essay as a painting. I said, of course, and she did it and came up with three magnificent acrylic paintings that really captured the theme of the novel the essay was for,” said Metcalf. “I want my students to have an open mind and to think for themselves. I say, think outside of the box, color outside of the lines. Take a walk on the wild side and sin boldly.” 

In addition to teaching, Metcalf has co-authored and published academic works on exercise physiology, cardiovascular rehabilitation, a textbook on aerobic and strength fitness, women and maternal health, nursing, and health education and writing. Metcalf is proud to have published works alongside his students on athletics and behavioral characteristics of athletes, particularly attack players in soccer. 

He has recently been exploring a new potential research endeavor about the relationship between freedom and health, with a focus on the lack of equity in choice of medical care. 

“I've been developing some classroom exercises where the students are asked to consider the relationship between freedom and health. In other words, if you can't choose your own provider, your own doctor or dentist does that affect your health?” Metcalf said. “It is perhaps more philosophical than medical and has not been studied much.” 

Over the course of his career, Metcalf was elected president of the Sports Medicine Association of Greater Washington, which later became a chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine, as well as a non-physician president of the Physical Fitness Committee of the District of Columbia Medical Association. 

Enjoying All of Mason

Outside of teaching, Metcalf revels in the full Mason experience, fueling his love for music singing in the Mason Chorale and following along with the university’s various athletic teams. Metcalf has always enjoyed delving into diverse topics, auditing philosophy and physics courses, and continually seeking dialogue with colleagues across disciplines.  

Metcalf remains as enthusiastic as he was when he first came to Mason, expressing his immense pride in being a part of Mason’s growth, and he greatly looks forward to what Mason has in store for the next 50 years. 

“The 50 years I have been here at Mason have been absolutely unbelievable in terms of where we've come from,” said Metcalf. “I was born at the right time and came to Mason at the right time as it was just exploding. I’m thankful that I was here and along for the ride.”

On behalf of Mason and the College of Public Health, congratulations again to James (Jim) Metcalf on 50 years at George Mason University!  

Additional reporting by Shayla Brown.