A Daughter’s Dedication Drives Stacey Woodward to Run

Denny and family

Denny and family

A Daughter’s Dedication Drives Stacey Woodward to Run

This year’s Chicago Marathon isn’t Stacey Woodward’s first, but it may be her most emotional. This marathon is dedicated to her father, Denny Wright, who passed away from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in December.

Stacey is the assistant news director at WBAL TV in Maryland, and a member of Respiratory Health Association’s Lung Power Team for the Chicago Marathon. She’s running for advancements in COPD research as a way to memorialize her father, who spent much of his time learning more about the disease and researching COPD treatments.

“Besides being stubborn, we’re not alike at all,” Stacey laughs of her father.

After serving in the US Army during the Vietnam War, Denny took up flying as an amateur pilot.

“He was diagnosed with PTSD after the Vietnam War, and I think flying was a bit therapeutic for him,” Stacey reflects.

As Denny flew over the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Stacey was across the country in Sacramento. There, in a city where she knew no one, she found a community of runners. In her early 20s she joined a team and began training.

When he was later diagnosed with COPD, Denny had to make several lifestyle changes. Once he was on oxygen he could no longer fly. “That really upset him,” Stacey says.

But Denny continued to seek adventure, including traveling and spending time with friends where he was “always the life of the party.” As travel became increasingly difficult, Denny’s determination and curiosity only grew. He decided to become as informed as he could about his condition, which included reading the latest research on COPD and working with his health care providers to explore additional treatment options.

Denny with a young Stacey

Denny with a young Stacey

The Department of Veterans Affairs later confirmed that chemical exposure during his time in the army had contributed to Denny’s illness, along with several other risk factors. While tobacco use is the most common cause of COPD, environmental factors and genetics also play a role.

Unfortunately, COPD research remains vastly underfunded and the role of environmental factors, including chemical exposure, in the development of COPD isn’t fully understood.

Despite Denny’s effort and attempts to receive a lung transplant, he passed away on December 1, 2017 at 70 years old.

Denny donated his body to science to contribute to the advancement in COPD research. Stacey joins him by running for the Lung Power Team and fundraising for current and future research.

When she struggles during a run, Stacey thinks of her dad—and she surrounds herself with support, including many of his friends from the VFW. There’s a certain amount of stubbornness—perhaps better called persistence—required to run a marathon, and she has her dad to thank for that.

Stacey says of the calm that she experiences after a run, “It’s rejuvenating. Running is a journey. Often I do not look forward to it, but I love the feeling after I’m done.”

To support Stacey and her father’s dedication to COPD research, donate to her fundraising.

RHA Receives Funding to Help COPD Patients and Family Caregivers

RHA Receives Funding to Help COPD Patients and Family Caregivers

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) was recently awarded funding in the form of a subcontract from the National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health, to help further the goals of the COPD National Action Plan to reduce the burden of COPD nationwide. This subcontract—one of just six awarded nationwide—is part of the NHLBI’s COPD Learn More Breathe Better® program and aims to conduct education and awareness activities around chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and its risk factors.

The focus of RHA’s subcontract is on providing resources to informal family caregivers of people living with COPD. Through its work with the COPD community, RHA identified a significant gap in educational and support resources dedicated to COPD caregivers. COPD caregivers are often underprepared for the range of roles and tasks required in tending to a family member or friend with COPD. In response, RHA developed The COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit, a comprehensive resource based on input from caregivers, patients and health care providers.

“This subcontract is an exciting opportunity for us to help people living with COPD and their caregivers,” said Joel Africk, RHA’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “We are committed to advancing the goals of the COPD National Action Plan and we are thrilled to receive NHLBI’s support for our COPD community and surrounding regions.”

With this award, RHA will disseminate approximately 300 copies of The COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit through health care providers in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin in an effort to reduce the burden of COPD and improve disease treatment and management.

For additional information on the disease and the COPD Learn More Breathe Better program: COPD.nhlbi.nih.gov.

Visit https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/copd/subcontractors/subcontractor-program.htm to learn more about the community partner subcontractor program.

Dr. MeiLan K. Han Receives 2018 Solovy Award for COPD Research

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) is pleased to name MeiLan K. Han, MD, MS, Associate Professor and Director of the Women’s Respiratory Clinic at University of Michigan Health System, as recipient of the 2018 Solovy Award for Advancement in COPD.

Two women holding the 2018 Solovy Award for Advancement in COPD.

Kathleen Hart Solovy presents the 2018 Solovy Award for Advancement in COPD to Dr. MeiLan K. Han on June 28, 2018.

Dr. Han has published nearly 200 publications on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), particularly COPD in women and risk factors for acute exacerbations. Dr. Han serves on many national scientific advisory boards and is a member of the prestigious Global Obstructive Lung Disease scientific committee which is charged with developing an internationally recognized consensus on COPD diagnosis and management.

Dr. Han is devoted to ensuring the best COPD care is available to patients who need it. Dr. Han has inspired a large number of junior physicians to pursue careers in COPD research and direct care of people living with COPD. Dr. Han’s scientific work, commitment to her patients and impact on advancing COPD care embody the meaning of the Solovy Award.

The award was presented to Dr. Han by RHA board member Kathleen Hart Solovy as part of RHA’s year-end reception on June 28, 2018. Funding for the award is provided by the Kathleen Hart Solovy and Jerold S. Solovy Endowment for COPD.

New Family Caregivers Act Recognizes Important Role of Caregivers

On January 22, 2018, the President signed into law the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act. Although RAISE is not accompanied by new funding, it is a step in the right direction in recognizing the important role family caregivers play in the care of people living with chronic illnesses, including COPD.

Couple attending a COPD conferenceIn the United States, it is estimated that more than 40 million unpaid caregivers[i] spend an estimated 30 billion hours annually caring for older family and friends, with uncompensated costs in excess of $500 billion.[ii] RAISE shines a light on these workers and calls on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to work with federal agencies and an advisory council to create a national strategy to support family caregivers.

The RAISE Act has two main features:

Development of a National Family Caregiving Strategy

The Act calls on HHS to develop (within 18 months), update, and sustain a national strategy that considers myriad issues that affect family caregivers.  These include:

  • Promoting greater adoption of person- and family-centered care in all health and long-term services and support settings, with the service recipient and family caregiver at the center of care teams;
  • Assessment and services planning involving caregiver
  • Promoting greater adoption of person- and family-centered care in all health and Long-term and supportive services settings, with the person and the family caregiver (as appropriate) at the center of care teams
  • Assessment and service planning (including care transitions and coordination) involving care recipients and family caregivers
  • Information, education, training supports, referral, and care coordination
  • Respite options for caregivers
  • Financial security and workplace issues

Establishment of a Family Caregiving Advisory Council 

A Family Caregiving Advisory Council will be convened to support the development of the National Family Caregiving Strategy and advise the department on recognizing and supporting family caregivers.  Members of this Council will include family caregivers, older adults with long-term services and support needs, health care and social service providers, and other key stakeholders in the caregiving community. The Council will also include federal representatives from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Veterans Affairs, the Administration for Community Living, and other relevant agencies.

The Family Caregiving Advisory Council’s responsibilities will include (a) an inventory and assessment of all federally-funded funded efforts to recognize and support family caregivers and the outcomes of these efforts, (b) recommendations to improve and better coordinate these federal efforts, (c) the identification of challenges faced by family caregivers, and (d) and evaluation of how family caregiving impacts Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal programs.[iii]

Respiratory Health Association is all too familiar with the essential role that family caregivers play in the lives of their loved ones living with chronic lung disease.  We are encouraged by the passage of the RAISE Act and the promise it may hold for the millions of families affected by respiratory diseases and other conditions.   We will monitor the implementation of the new law and contribute the experiences of our supporters to assure  that the mandates of this new law will be fulfilled.


[i] https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2015/caregiving-in-the-united-states-2015-report-revised.pdf

[ii] https://states.aarp.org/family-caregivers-provide-522-billion-in-uncompensated-care-per-year/

[iii] H.R. 3759. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/3759