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April, 2010

Asthma Research into Action

Running Toward Better Asthma Management

At age 14, Dr. Stanley Szelfer hung up his running shoes for good. He did it because his doctor told him that he’d die of an asthma attack if he continued to run track. The potentially fatal nature of asthma was driven home by his cousin dying of asthma-related complications.

Dr. Szelfer examines patient The resulting sadness, and frustration about having the disease, was—in part—what spurred Dr. Szelfer to pursue a career in medicine and ultimately become an asthma expert.

Today, Dr. Szelfer is a key member of the Expert Panel 3, a group convened by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to update clinical guidelines for asthma. He also is a pediatrician and specialist in allergy and immunology who’s committed to finding better ways to manage asthma.

“Asthma is a persistent disease that rarely goes away,” said Dr. Szelfer. “It requires some adjustment in lifestyle to be aware of situations that can trigger asthma symptoms.”

But the prognosis is not all doom and gloom.

“On the bright side, it is a controllable disease for most individuals who suffer from it,” said Dr. Szelfer.

Dr. Szelfer knows this firsthand, through his personal life and his research. He has led and co-authored several studies that help clinicians improve health outcomes for patients with asthma, including The Epidemiology and Natural History of Asthma: Outcomes and Treatment Regimens (TENOR) study. TENOR examined the unmet needs of children and adults with severe asthma, and found that very poorly controlled asthma increases the risk of future asthma attacks. The November 2009 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology features new observations of the TENOR findings. 

“While I was unable to help my cousin, there’s no greater satisfaction than knowing my research is helping clinicians better evaluate their patients,” said Dr. Szelfer. “I’m pleased to have a hand in helping someone else’s loved one afflicted by asthma.”

He looks to the National Asthma Control Initiative (NACI) as a tool to transform and potentially save lives by:

  • Promoting the adoption and use of science-based asthma guidelines
  • Communicating the latest findings from the world of asthma research, such as those of the TENOR study

Dr. Szelfer believes that the most pressing barrier to the adoption of the Expert Panel Report 3: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma (EPR-3) guidelines is a lack of time, not a lack of awareness.  Busy clinicians simply don’t have the time to read a 400-page document such as the EPR-3.

He sees the NACI breaking through that barrier by creating and disseminating easy-to-read materials that make it simple to follow the Guidelines Implementation Panel (GIP) recommendations and, ultimately, create a dynamic environment in which the whole community collaborates to help asthma patients keep airways open. 

Dr. Szelfer’s already hitting the ground running to share these thoughts with other clinicians who manage asthma patients, so that they can help those patients stay on track and win the race against the disease.

Last Updated February 2011

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