Teacher-Scholar Legacies: Jim Ross

By Peter Brubaker, Professor and Chair of the Department of Health and Exercise Science

Health and Exercise Science Associate Professor of the Practice James “Jim” Ross had spent his entire life in the Hoosier State until he received an “offer he couldn’t refuse” to work with Dr. Jack Rejeski and Dr. Peter Brubaker in the Department of Health and Exercise Science on a cardiovascular disease prevention research study in 1999. Little did he realize how much that move to Wake Forest more than 20 years ago would change his life. 

While Jim enjoyed research and working with patients in the Wake Forest University Cardiac Rehabilitation Program (now called HELPS) for his first decade at Wake Forest University, he began to realize how much he missed teaching undergraduate students, something he had done previously at Ball State University. Fortunately, the department was expanding and needed individuals with clinical exercise physiology experience to teach some of their core major classes. Jim seized the opportunity to return to the classroom and has spent the last 10 years teaching the “Assessment Techniques in Exercise Science” and “Human/Exercise Physiology” courses to HES majors, as well as an occasional First Year Seminar on “Chronic Disease Prevention and Health.” Jim especially enjoys teaching the Assessment Techniques class, a laboratory-based capstone class where seniors have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of various laboratory tests and an opportunity to develop real-world clinical skills,  such as measuring blood pressure, interpreting electrocardiograms, and measuring body composition. This course was the perfect marriage of Jim’s clinical skills/experience and his passion for teaching the next generation of health care providers.

Former HES undergraduate student Rob Musci (’12) shared, “Professor Ross was an excellent instructor whose teaching style was both clear and engaging as he shared real-world scenarios and stories to highlight the topics and skills he was teaching us. His expertise and enthusiasm for the field of exercise physiology and student learning made his classes standout. There is no question that Professor Ross’s passion and knowledge influenced my decision to pursue a Ph.D. in exercise physiology.”   

Because of his unique experience and clinical skill set, Jim also had the opportunity to deliver clinical exercise physiology workshops, offered through the American College of Sports Medicine, to professionals and students in several countries, including Italy and South Korea.  Jim reflected that these “international opportunities were a professional and personal highlight as they gave me (as well as my wife and daughter) a chance to see other parts of the world and experience different cultures for the first time.” Consequently, Jim and his family have been “bitten by the travel bug” and are looking forward to more international travels during his retirement.    

Professor Jim Ross watches over a patient as the patient raises a workout bar over his head.

Associate Professor Jim Ross works with a patient at their research center at the stadium complex.

Finally, it must be noted that Jim Ross does not just “talk the talk” when it comes to exercise and healthy lifestyle habits. Jim has been an outstanding role model for his students. As an accomplished triathlete Jim not only “walks the walk,” he runs, swims, and bikes it, too! While his triathlon and marathon days are behind him, Jim continues to be active by walking/jogging regularly and riding his bicycle to and from work every day — approximately 20 miles round trip — regardless of the weather. In addition to more international travel, Jim also plans to do more long bike trips through the United States. His last trip was a 1,200 mile solo ride back up to his native Indiana for a family reunion. Fortunately, it was not a one-way trip, as his wife was there to drive them both back to North Carolina by car. 

Needless to say, the Department of Health and Exercise Science is grateful to Jim for the many contributions he has made to the department and the impact he has had on countless students during his 22-year tenure at Wake Forest University. Jim, I will especially miss the camaraderie and friendship we developed over the years while exercising together and our regular “tea-time” walks to Starbucks. You will be missed … but it’s likely we’ll see you regularly riding your bike around town and enjoying your retirement. 

“Professor Ross was an excellent instructor whose teaching style was both clear and engaging as he shared real-world scenarios and stories to highlight the topics and skills he was teaching us. His expertise and enthusiasm for the field of exercise physiology and student learning made his classes standout. There is no question that Professor Ross’s passion and knowledge influenced my decision to pursue a Ph.D. in exercise physiology.” Rob Musci (’12)