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UK Physician Spreads Word Nationally
About Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

By Tammy J. Gay

Photo of Dennis Doherty, M.D.

Dennis Doherty, M.D.

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"COPD, better known as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is often not diagnosed early enough to prevent significant damage to the lung. This is largely due to a lack of awareness of the early signs of the disease: cough, mucus production, shortness of breath on mild exertion, and wheeze. Many associate these signs as part of smoking, but do not realize that they are warning signs of imminent lung damage."

-- Dennis Doherty, M.D.,
chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in the UK College of Medicine

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Lexington, Ky. (Nov. 13, 2002) – A University of Kentucky physician is crusading to get the word out about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

In October, Dennis Doherty, M.D., chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in the UK College of Medicine, completed a two-week media tour with the National Lung Health Education Program to raise public awareness about COPD - often an unrecognized and forgotten disease that is highly prevalent in Kentucky.

He also delivered a Congressional briefing in Washington, D.C., on COPD on behalf of the United States COPD Coalition board.

His efforts did not go unnoticed. Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton recently proclaimed November as COPD Awareness Month and President George W. Bush gave a presidential message commending the COPD Coalition for increasing awareness of COPD.

In Washington, D.C., Doherty, co-chairman of the National Lung Health Education Program and member of the United States COPD Coalition board, presented the clinician, academician and researcher perspectives on COPD.

"COPD, better known as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is often not diagnosed early enough to prevent significant damage to the lung," Doherty said. "This is largely due to a lack of awareness of the early signs of the disease: cough, mucus production, shortness of breath on mild exertion, and wheeze. Many associate these signs as part of smoking, but do not realize that they are warning signs of imminent lung damage."

Anyone 45 or older who is a current or former smoker with these symptoms should see their doctor and have their lungs tested with a simple test called spirometry, in order to see if they do have COPD and can be helped.

COPD, the fourth leading cause of death in the nation, is the only disease of the top five killers in the United States. COPD's death rate has increased more than 175 percent over the past three decades. This increase has climbed three times faster in women.

Doherty is also co-chairing the planning committee, with the head of the lung division of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health, a conference in November 2003 in Washington, D.C., to bring together health care workers, media, patient groups, insurance and others in an effort to raise public and professional awareness of the disease.


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