RHA Board Member Heads Federal RECOVER Study

Included in the American Rescue Plan of 2021, was a new $1.15 billion multi-site study into the effects of Long COVID by the National Institutes of Health. The Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) study looked to identify how individuals recover from a COVID-19 infection and which populations are at higher risk for Long COVID.

Long COVID refers to the myriad symptoms stemming from COVID-19 that persist in the weeks and months following initial COVID infection.

One of the study’s principal investigators, Jerry Krishnan, MD, PhD, is a professor at University of Illinois Chicago, and an RHA board member. Dr. Krishnan notes that, “Long COVID is likely a result of the virus itself, the host response to the virus—our immune system’s ability to respond to the infection, clear the virus, and then turn off the response; which could be affected by age, underlying health conditions, medications that we are using—and the social determinants of health—all the factors that affect our ability to access and use healthcare effectively, including social supports through family and friends.”

An initial RECOVER study found that of 13,106 adults in New York who were hospitalized from COVID-19, 1 in 4 were Black, 1 in 4 were Hispanic, and only 1 in 7 were White adults. In general, Long COVID patients were more likely to have conditions affecting their nervous system, respiratory function, circulation, and have joint pain or fatigue. However, symptoms varied by race. In the months following infection, Black adults with severe comorbidities were more likely than Whites to be diagnosed with diabetes and experience headaches, chest pain and joint pain, but less likely than other racial groups to have sleep disorders, cognitive problems, or fatigue. Similarly, Hispanics were more likely to have headaches, shortness of breath, joint paint, and chest pain, but less likely to have sleep disorders, cognitive problems, or fatigue. Among patients who were not hospitalized, Black adults were more likely to have blood clots in their lungs, chest pain, joint pain, anemia, or be malnourished. Hispanic adults were more likely to have dementia, headaches, anemia, chest pain, and diabetes. White adults were most likely to have conditions such as cognitive impairment (i.e ‘brain fog’) and fatigue.

A second, RECOVER study, looked at data from 34 health systems in the US and found most Long COVID patients to be White, female, non-Hispanic, and likely to live in areas with low poverty and greater access to health care. This pattern suggests that not all patients who have Long COVID are being diagnosed, said Emily Pfaff, Ph.D., a study author, and professor at the University of North Carolina. In addition to long-documented health disparities, women are more likely than men to seek health care, and patients with the time and resources to access health care tend to be disproportionally represented in clinical data. Pfaff also found that patients could be grouped by age and symptoms. Patients with Long COVID had mild COVID-19 symptoms during infection. Gastrointestinal and upper respiratory problems were more likely among children and teenagers. Those aged 21-45 commonly experienced neurological problems, such as brain fog and fatigue. While adults ages 66 and older were more likely to have coexisting conditions. Study authors suspect this is likely due to age rather than COVID-19. However, additional studies are needed to confirm all trends.

“COVID-19 was the first pandemic. Long COVID is the second pandemic related to SARS-CoV-2,” said Krishnan. He points out, “although Long COVID is not infectious (unlike COVID-19), it can lead to disability (short-term, medium-term, or long-term) and prevent someone finishing school or going back to work. According to the CDC, about one in five Americans who had COVID-19 develop Long COVID.   Many other infectious diseases (e.g., polio, chickenpox, Giardia) leave a tail of disability – Long COVID is another example of how infections not only lead to an acute illness but can leave some disabled.”  While researchers are working with community stakeholders to identify strategies to prevent and treat the long-term effects of COVID-19, we do know that getting vaccinated and following CDC recommendations for boosters can help reduce the severity of COVID-19 and boost the host response.

Know the Facts this Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women each year in the United States. Despite that fact, lung cancer receives 3-7 times less federal research funding per death than other well-known cancers. While smoking increases your lung cancer risk, many people diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked. No matter the cause, people with lung cancer deserve the same attention and focus on new treatments and cures as other patients.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, a good time to talk about the disease and consider screening. Some of the most common signs and symptoms linked to lung cancer include:

  • A cough that won’t go away
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest, back or shoulder pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Hoarseness
  • Being tired
  • Weight loss

If you or someone you know has symptoms or may be at risk for lung cancer, talk with your health care provider about your concerns and to determine whether you are a good candidate for lung cancer screening.

There are a number of ways to help prevent lung cancer:

1) Quit or do not ever start using tobacco: If you smoke or use tobacco in any form, quit. As soon as you quit, your body begins to repair the damage done by smoking.
2) Avoid secondhand smoke: Make your home and car smoke-free. Encourage family, friends and co-workers to quit smoking.
3) Test your home for radon: Simple, inexpensive test kits are available at most home improvement stores.

Building a Healthy Future Together

Your support made it possible for us to have an impact in communities throughout Illinois and beyond this past year. Together we faced new challenges, found new solutions, and made progress toward a future free of lung disease. As we come to the end of our program year, we want to share some of our work to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people with lung disease live better lives.


Thanks to support from the Learn More Breathe BetterSM program of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, we created resources that provide information on how people with COPD can live well at home. Each informational packet aims at keeping people with COPD healthy and provides guidance to help build exercise routines, manage breathing, put together a nutrition plan, and more.

Improving Our Asthma Programs

We collaborated with University of Chicago to conduct a formal evaluation of our two asthma programs – Fight Asthma Now© and Asthma Management. The evaluation showed kids and parents participating in these programs learned a lot about asthma triggers, medications, and staying healthy. The results were even better with repeat sessions.

A New Approach to Quitting

We began testing a new format for our Courage to Quit® program that helps people stop smoking. The new “rolling” model allows people to attend group Courage to Quit sessions with more flexibility, which increases accessibility and makes the program work for more people. We’re pushing forward to expand this idea and increase access to the program in the coming year.

Educational Webinar Series

In August, we launched a new educational webinar series. Lung health content reached nearly 1,000 people on important topics like COVID vaccines, women’s lung health, lung cancer screening, and environmental justice issues. Because the programs were entirely online, we were able to reach a national audience.

Funding Asthma Education

Asthma is the No. 1 cause of school absences due to chronic illness. RHA led an advocacy effort to increase statewide funding for asthma education in Illinois. These efforts resulted in an additional $1 million in funding for school-based asthma education.

group participating in event to help people living with lung disease

Lung Cancer & COPD Research

We awarded two grants to fund promising research into lung cancer and one new COPD research award. One of the lung cancer studies is looking at a specific gene mutation that can cause cancer even in non-smokers. Our annual Solovy Award for Advancement in COPD was awarded to support the research efforts of Dr. Nadia Hansel at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

School-based Asthma Policy Study

We conducted a study to see how well school staff understand current rules about asthma inhalers in schools. We found that 60% of school nurses in Illinois surveyed didn’t fully understand current rules that allow students to bring and use their inhalers in school. We will now focus some of our program resources on educating school health staff to better serve students.

Investing in Clean Air

In April, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency released a plan to invest $88.6 million in electric public transportation, school buses, and charging infrastructure for electric cars. For years RHA has given testimony and fought for money to support clean transportation because transportation is a leading cause of air pollution. This investment is a huge victory for clean air.

woman with stat about helping people with lung disease

Women’s Lung Health Research

Thanks to amazing growth in our Catch Your Breath® women’s lung health initiative, we were able to partner with CHEST Foundation to fund a new research award addressing gender disparities in lung disease. Lung disease impacts one in every six US women, and this award will increase research into the unique aspects of lung disease in women.

To learn more about the educational programs, research, and policy work your contributions support, as well as to receive updates on our work toward healthy lungs and clean air for all, sign-up for our monthly newsletter.

If you’d like to support RHA’s work to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people living with lung disease, you can donate here.

Sharing Hope for a Future Free of Lung Disease

As we close out a year of many challenges, I am proud of all we have accomplished at Respiratory Health Association (RHA). Together, we have continued to reach for a future free of lung disease.

With the support of our dearest friends, supporters, and partners this year, we made some amazing progress.

Five things give me hope for a brighter tomorrow.


Our amazing Making a Difference Volunteers

They give me hope and inspiration in their dedication and support of healthy lungs and clean air for all. Whether riding CowaLUNGa to support kids who have asthma or working with people committed to quit smoking, these awardees have lived RHA’s mission and they are amazing.

collage of photos

RHA’s resilient program staff

When respiratory therapists paused their pulmonary rehabilitation programs for patients living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and shifted to help care for COVID-19 patients, RHA stepped up and provided much-needed patient resources. RHA’s new Project STRENGTH (Support for Transitioning Rehabilitation and Exercise Now Going to Home) offers exercise routines and breathing tips COPD patients can use at home.

girl behind sewing machine and face masksOne of RHA’s Next Generation Advocates, Mia Fritsch-Anderson

Mia, a high schooler who lives with asthma, made more than 3,500 masks over the last nine months. Mia donates masks to people in need and sells some with all the proceeds going to charities doing important work during the pandemic.

Our local research community

These scientists have worked tirelessly over the last year to find treatments and new vaccines for COVID-19. The collaboration across the industry has saved countless lives, and RHA is excited to help promote the vaccine in the new year.

Our environmental policy staff and partners

Amidst the pandemic, they have continued to fight for equitable clean air policies and to reduce climate change. The air we breathe has a direct effect on our lungs, and these advocates are committed to protecting the air to ensure we can all breathe better.

These people, and their tremendous work, give me hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Please join us and make a gift today to help create a tomorrow where everyone breathes easier.

Thank you for being a part of Respiratory Health Association’s community.

Have a happy new year,

Joel J. Africk
President and Chief Executive Officer

Early Investment in Lung Cancer Research Pays Off

Despite the heavy toll that lung disease takes on Americans each year, investment in lung disease research is relatively modest. As a result, ideas that could lead to new treatments, earlier detection, or even cures are never explored. Lung disease remains the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

To help change this unfortunate situation, each year Respiratory Health Association (RHA) awards research grants to promising early-career researchers in the areas of lung cancer, COPD, pulmonary fibrosis and other respiratory diseases. One of RHA’s first research investments, in the work of Dr. Navdeep Chandel, has seen incredible results.

Dr. Chandel was awarded the National Cancer Institute’s Outstanding Investigator Award. This grant supports investigators who have made significant contributions in cancer research and are pursuing areas with unusual potential to move the field forward. Dr. Chandel’s current project grew out of an idea he proposed to RHA in 2008.

In 2008, Dr. Chandel thought there might be a fundamentally different way to disrupt cancer cell growth. The study RHA helped fund showed that he might be onto something.

researcher talks about his award

Healthy cells produce waste molecules called Reactive Oxygen Species. Cancer cells then take this waste and, using antioxidants, turn it into food – helping them continue to grow. Through his research, Dr. Chandel looked at how inhibiting the antioxidants affected cancer cells’ ability to turn waste into food.

As Dr. Chandel wrote in his 2010 report to RHA, “This study will change our thinking about cancer cell metabolism and opens up therapeutic targeting.” In the years since, this is exactly what has happened. Dr. Chandel and his colleagues have tested drug therapies which inhibit antioxidants and have been shown to reduce lung cancer tumors.

Dr. Chandel’s success shows the importance of RHA’s research program. Through our funding we assist researchers with compiling the data needed to approach larger research organizations, such as the National Cancer Institute. By providing a grant to Dr. Chandel in 2008, we helped change the dialogue around lung cancer treatments.

And the future became a little brighter.

The 2020 research proposal process is currently open, and RHA is accepting applications for lung cancer and IPF (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis) research. Learn more about our research funding opportunities.

RHA’s research program is limited by the support we receive. Help us continue, and grow, our research program by making an end of year gift today.

Lung Disease Research Funding Now Available

Lung disease may be the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, but it receives hundreds of millions of dollars less in research funding compared to other leading causes of death.

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) is committed to closing this gap and supporting research to explore new and innovative treatments. For many of our researchers, these awards come at a critical point. Our funding can help springboard their research, publish findings and secure additional funding.

We are currently accepting grant applications for funding opportunities to be awarded in 2020!

This year, we are awarding research focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and lung cancer. The awards will support one investigator to build upon an existing IPF or lung cancer portfolio of research or one junior investigator to develop an IPF or Lung Cancer research program.

We are seeking innovative studies into the causes, mechanisms, and treatments of a specific lung disease, including pilot and feasibility studies for disease investigation and development and testing of new methodologies and models. Basic, clinical/translational and social/behavioral studies will be considered, with patient-oriented research being particularly valued.

Apply for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) Research Funding

Apply for Lung Cancer Research Funding

Learn More About Previously Funded Projects

Timeline for Applications

Full Applications Due
March 9, 2020 by 5 pm (CST)

Anticipated Research Funding Awards Announced
June 1, 2020

Earliest Start Date for Funded Research Projects
July 1, 2020

If you have questions or to learn more about these opportunities, contact Hannah Garza, Program Coordinator at HGarza@resphealth.org.


Dr. Ravi Kalhan Receives 2019 Solovy Award for COPD Research

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) is pleased to name Ravi Kalhan, MD, MS, Director of the Northwestern Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Program, as recipient of the 2019 Solovy Award for Advancement in COPD.

Kathleen Hart Solovy and Dr. Ravi KalhanDr. Kalhan additionally serves as director of the Alpha-1-Antitrypsin Deficiency Clinical Resource Center at Northwestern and medical director of the lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) program. Dr. Kalhan’s clinical interests are in the care of patients with both asthma and COPD as well as alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. His research interests relate to respiratory epidemiology, in particular, identification of early risk factors that impact the vulnerability of certain cigarette smokers to develop COPD. He is also involved in clinical trials of new therapies for both asthma and COPD.

Dr. Kalhan additionally serves as Chairman of the Illinois COPD Coalition, a multidisciplinary group, including representatives from community-based organizations, public health departments, professional organizations, patients, caregivers, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies and home healthcare providers. They have the goal of implementing sustainable solutions for reducing the burden of COPD in Illinois.

The 2019 Solovy Award was presented to Dr. Kalhan by RHA board member Kathleen Hart Solovy as part of RHA’s year-end reception on June 27, 2019. Funding for the award is provided by the Kathleen Hart Solovy and Jerold S. Solovy Endowment for COPD.

Each year Respiratory Health Association awards early-stage research grants to promising projects covering lung diseases such as lung cancer, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Learn more about RHA’s research program and funding opportunities.

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.

RHA Announces Local Lung Disease Research Awards

RHA Announces Local Lung Disease Research Awards

We recently selected our 2018 research grant awardees! These Chicago-based researchers were granted funding for their research in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and lung cancer.

Catherine Bonham, M.D., from the University of Chicago Medicine received RHA’s 2018 Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) research award. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a type of lung disease in which the lungs are scarred (also known as fibrosis) for an unknown reason. Dr. Bonham received a grant for her research project, “T Cells in Idiopathic Fibrosis Patients.” Through this research, Dr. Bonham seeks to pinpoint problems in T cells of IPF patients that can be targeted with existing medications used for fighting cancer. This is an innovative concept in the field of lung fibrosis.

RHA also awarded a Lung Cancer research award to Guofei Zhou, Ph.D., from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine for his research project, “Targeting PDLIM5 for Lung Cancer.” Dr. Zhou is researching a new target (PDLIM5) for lung cancer drug discovery that may be capable of inhibiting lung cancer development. The results from Dr. Zhou’s study will provide insights into new therapeutic strategies including new drugs to treat lung cancer. We were impressed by the potential for Dr. Zhou’s research to be applied into medical practice and meaningful health outcomes, which closely aligns with the mission of RHA.

We expect this award will make a positive impact on Dr. Bonham and Dr. Zhou’s future research efforts. RHA looks forward to the advances these researchers will make in IPF and lung cancer.

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) funds groundbreaking lung disease research at major research institutions located in Chicago. These grants are designed to aid local scientists and investigators with generating the preliminary data necessary to compete for future federal funding. RHA’s research review committee seeks innovative studies into the causes, mechanisms, and treatments of a specific lung disease, including pilot and feasibility studies for disease investigation and development and testing of new methodologies and models.

New Insights on Flu in Healthy Children Thanks to RHA-funded Study

A key component of Respiratory Health Association’s (RHA) mission is to help people live better through funding lung disease research. In 2016, RHA awarded research funding to Dr. Bria Coates of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine to study how the influenza A virus impacts the immune system response in the development of lung injuries in children. Last month, Dr. Coates’ findings were published in The Journal of Immunology.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 50 percent of all children under 5 years old who die from influenza (commonly known as the flu) annually were previously healthy. This comes in stark contrast to adults who die from the flu, who typically had a medical condition that increased their risk of mortality.

Previously, it was believed that children were more susceptible because their immune systems were not strong enough to respond. However, Dr. Coates’ findings suggest that children’s immune systems overreact to the flu virus, causing more inflammation which leads to greater lung damage and the potential of increased mortality – a previously unknown immune response.

These findings suggest new ways of treating the issue in children in the future.

Dr. Coates credits RHA’s funding for playing a crucial role in allowing her to do this research.

“RHA’s funding is wonderful for an early stage investigator,” said Dr. Coates, “It served as the springboard to advance the project.” RHA’s funding allowed Dr. Coates to publish findings demonstrating why this topic area is important for continued research and requires additional funding.

Dr. Coates intends to continue exploring what drives the increased immune response, how to mitigate its effects, and develop new therapies. “All we have is supportive care to treat the flu,” said Dr. Coates, “so any advancements in therapy would be huge for the field and for the public.”

Respiratory Health Association funds groundbreaking local lung disease researchers like Dr. Coates at major institutions. Other research areas of focus have included asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), and more. These grants are designed to aid local scientists and investigators with generating the preliminary data necessary to compete for future federal funding. For more information, visit Research.