Dr. Balmes received his MD degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 1976. After internal medicine training at Mount Sinai and pulmonary subspecialty, occupational medicine, and research training at Yale, he joined the faculty of USC in 1982. He joined the faculty at UCSF in 1986 and is currently Professor in the Divisions of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFG). His major academic activities include several collaborative epidemiological research projects, various advisory and editorial committees, Director of the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program, Director of the Northern California Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (a consortium of programs at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and UCSF). Since 2008 he has been the Physician Member of the California Air Resources Board.
Until 2015, Dr. Balmes was the Director of the UCSF Human Exposure Laboratory (HEL). The HEL was the first group to demonstrate a) histological evidence of ozone-induced airway injury and inflammation in human subjects, b) that asthmatic subjects have greater inflammatory responses to ozone than normal subjects, c) that ozone-induced inflammatory responses in normal subjects attenuate with short-term exposures on consecutive days in the lung, and d) that asthmatic subjects recruit macrophages to the airways with consecutive day exposures. The HEL also studied the relationship of acute airway inflammatory responses to acute cardiovascular responses after both ozone and secondhand tobacco smoke.
Dr. Balmes is also collaborating on several epidemiological projects that are run out of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health where he is a Professor of Environmental Health Sciences. One such project is called the Children’s Health and Air Pollution Study (CHAPS). The overall specific goal of CHAPS is to assess the impact of air pollution on the health of children living in Fresno, including adverse effects on immune and metabolic function that may increase the risk of asthma onset/exacerbation, obesity, glucose dysregulation, and hypertension. A second project involves study of the effects of biomass smoke exposure on chronic respiratory health of children and adults in rural Guatemala, Malawi, Nepal, and Rwanda. A third line of research involves the effects of arsenic in drinking water on lung health in both Bangladesh and Chile. Yet another project involves the effect of chronic exposure to pesticides among a birth cohort of Mexican-American children in Salinas.