Physician Collaborates on Lung Health Program
By Crystal Baity
In eastern North Carolina, three respiratory diseases – emphysema, lung cancer and pneumonia/respiratory failure - rank among the top 10 causes of death, according to the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics.
They are common problems and the driving force behind a new initiative and partnership to fight lung disease, said Dr. Mani Kavuru, professor and chief of the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Brody School of Medicine.
“These are in our own backyard kind of issues,” he said, stressing a regional approach to care. “We’ve got to help ourselves.”
Kavuru is working with Pitt County Memorial Hospital officials, private physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists to jumpstart a comprehensive lung health program.
“We have a lot of different individuals and we want to bring them on the same team,” Kavuru said.
“Whether you work for ECU, PCMH or private practice, we’ve got to join forces and figure out a way to make progress.”
He helped spearhead the first Run for Respiration 8K on Sept. 30 which drew more than 100 runners. Billed a celebration in healthy breathing, the run was designed to increase public awareness and benefit lung and pulmonary health programs in Pitt County. Future events will include a continuing medical education program for physicians on Nov. 3 featuring Dr. James Stoller of the Cleveland Clinic and Dr. Jim Donohue of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The need presents itself every day. Patients arrive wheezing, coughing, spitting up blood or having difficulty walking. Some smoke and may be trying to quit but don’t know how. Some require additional visits, testing or biopsy, even hospitalization. Other diseases also have an impact on the respiratory system. For instance, morbidly obese patients often have trouble breathing. “Weight stresses what the lungs and heart can do,” Kavuru said.
Taking a holistic approach to a subspecialty area will lead to additional therapies. Education and research are critical components in the fight against lung disease.
Brody researchers are investigating inflammation in the lungs, asthma and pulmonary sarcoidosis, a respiratory disease which disproportionately affects African Americans.
Though not usually life-threatening, the disease made headlines in 2004 as a factor in the sudden death of North Carolina resident and NFL great Reggie White.
Lung cancer represents a major problem and is an area of significant interest for both clinical care as well as innovation.
New surveillance techniques for early detection of lung cancer are being studied by Dr. Gordon Downie, a Brody School of Medicine pulmonologist, and others, Kavuru said.