Dr. Russell Buhr Receives 2024 Solovy Award for Advancement in COPD

June 6, 2024 – CHICAGO – Respiratory Health Association (RHA) is proud to present the 2024 Solovy Award for Advancement in COPD to Russell Buhr, MD, PhD, FACP, ATSF. The $25,000 award will allow Dr. Buhr to further his ongoing COPD research to close the gap between scientific advances at the bench and implementing them at the bedside.

Dr. Buhr’s medical research has focused on better understanding the biology and natural course of COPD, particularly in the early stages, with the goal of discovering better targets for treatment. His PhD research centers on understanding how Medicare policies that penalize hospitals for readmissions following COPD exacerbations affect patient outcomes.

“It’s not only our patients that suffer from the terrible burdens of COPD, but also their families, who see their loved one robbed of their independence by shortness of breath, fatigue, and oftentimes stigma associated with COPD’s connection to smoking. It may sound like something that is simple to achieve, but we are still a long way from understanding how to consistently get the right interventions to the right patients at the right time to improve their health and their quality of life,” said Dr. Buhr.  “I am delighted and humbled to be recognized and supported by the Solovy Award for my team’s ongoing work in this area.”

The Solovy Award for Advancement in COPD recognizes innovation and continued progress in the prevention, treatment, and cure for COPD. The award was established by Kathleen Hart Solovy in memory of her husband, Jerold S. Solovy, and is funded by the Kathleen Hart Solovy and Jerold S. Solovy Endowment for COPD. Jerry lived for many years with COPD, and both he and Kathleen recognized the health burden.

“We are excited to recognize Dr. Buhr for his work on behalf of COPD patients,” said Joel Africk, RHA President and CEO. “COPD affects nearly 16 million Americans and has claimed too many of our family members, friends, and colleagues.”

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 at RespHealth.org/Research.


About Respiratory Health Association

RHA has been a local public health leader in Chicago since 1906. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people live better through education, research, and policy change. To learn more, visit RespHealth.org.

Dr. Jing Liu Receives 2024 Lung Cancer Research Award

June 6, 2024 – CHICAGO – Respiratory Health Association is proud to present the 2024 Lung Cancer Research Award to Jing Liu, PhD. Dr. Liu will receive a one-time award of $100,000 to conduct research focused on understanding the mechanisms that regulate lung inflammation and injury, including targeting the gene regulator Miz-1, which promotes tumor growth and suppresses the immune response. Blocking Miz-1 can slow tumor growth and enhance immune cell infiltration, offering promising new treatment strategies for lung cancer.

Her team’s findings have significantly advanced comprehension of the processes underlying inflammation resolution, the repercussions of dysregulated inflammation, how to preserve immune homeostasis, the missing link in our understanding of TNF signaling, and our understanding of regulation of cell death.

“It is an honor to receive this award. This study will allow us to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms that contribute to lung diseases and identify potential therapeutic targets,” commented Dr. Liu.

RHA has awarded lung cancer research grants since 1998, encouraging early-stage investigators interested in conducting innovative research studies in lung cancer to apply. This award is meant to catalyze pilot and feasibility studies which generate preliminary data that can be used to compete for federally funded grants. Ultimately, this will lead to advancements in lung cancer treatment.

“This research will take us one step further towards advancements in lung cancer, a disease that historically has been underfunded despite being the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.” said Joel Africk, RHA President and CEO.

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 at RespHealth.org/Research.


About Respiratory Health Association

RHA has been a local public health leader in Chicago since 1906. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people live better through education, research, and policy change. To learn more, visit RespHealth.org.

RHA Statement on the Passing of Karen Yarbrough

During her tenure representing Maywood in the Illinois General Assembly, Karen Yarbrough was a champion for lung health and a leader in the fight for Smoke Free Illinois. She worked tirelessly, shoulder to shoulder with RHA and other organizations championing the importance of banning smoking in virtually all indoor public places in the state, and protecting the health of Illinoisians. Her twin goals of public health and public safety carried through her tenure in the legislature, and on to her work as Cook County Clerk. Her passion, commitment, and energy will be missed.

Respiratory Health Association expresses its deep condolences to her friends, colleagues and family on the loss of such an incredible person and public servant. May her memory be a blessing.

COVID-19 and the Flu

As we enter flu season, it is more important than ever to get your flu shot this year. Below is information on the importance of getting your flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine, who should be getting these vaccinations, when and where you should get them.

Why is the flu shot so important this year?

The symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are very similar:

  • Fever
  • Cough/Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue

Getting the flu can leave you more vulnerable to COVID-19, and those who are already at risk for getting respiratory diseases could face more severe cases. It is especially important to get the flu shot this year because if you do get sick with one of these lung illnesses this fall, it could help reduce the severity of your symptoms.

What are the benefits of getting the flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 110,000-230,000 flu hospitalizations in 2023. The flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine can:

  • Protect you, your family, neighbors, and community
  • May help you avoid COVID-19 exposure from doctor offices or hospitals
  • Decreased severity of symptoms and lower hospitalization risk
  • Help hospital workers save resources

How does the flu shot work?

The flu vaccine introduces an inactivated or weak version of the virus to your body, which causes your immune system to produce protection against it. You may sometimes have mild symptoms after receiving the flu vaccine; this is your body developing its response to the inactivated or weakened virus. When you are actually exposed to the virus, your body can fight it off or reduce its impact so you only experience mild symptoms.

Who should get the flu shot?

Everyone over six months old should get the flu shot.

Who should get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Everyone aged 5 years or older should get the COVID-19 vaccine. As of September 2023, the CDC recommends the updated 2023-2024 Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines. It is especially important for high-risk groups to get vaccinated. These groups include:

  • Pregnant women
  • Older adults
  • Essential workers
  • Caretakers exposed to vulnerable groups
  • Those with underlying illnesses like asthma, heart disease, or COPD

When should you get the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine?

Most drugstores in the U.S. now have the flu vaccine in stock. However, experts suggest waiting until September or October so the vaccine protection lasts the whole flu season. This is especially important for adults over 65 and those with compromised immune systems. There is a special flu vaccine for adults 65 years and older with a higher dosage that protects against four strains of the flu. For COVID-19, the vaccination is available year round. If you have had the virus, it is recommended to wait three months after infection to receive your vaccination. It is safe to receive both the flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccination at the same time. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about the options that are available to you.

Where are these vaccines available?

Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens all have the vaccine in stock, and most other drugstores have begun offering the vaccine. Doctors’ offices also offer the vaccine but be sure to call your healthcare provider ahead of time to make sure they have the flu shot in stock. You can also visit vaccinefinder.org for more vaccine locations.

What is the cost?

For those with private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, the shot is usually free or comes with a low copayment. The COVID-19 vaccination is free with insurance. For those without insurance, the cost for the regular shot is $58.99 at Walgreens and $62.99 at CVS and Rite Aid. The COVID-19 vaccine is free with government assistance. The uninsured cost of the high-dose vaccine for those 65 and older is $106.99 at CVS and Rite Aid and $108.99 at Walgreens.

FDA’s Proposed Rules to Prohibit Menthol Cigarettes and Flavored Cigars Will Protect Lung Health

Today the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed product standards that ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and ban all characterizing flavors (including menthol) in cigars. The decision comes as the result of a citizen complaint filed by public health organizations and over a decade of advocacy efforts.

“Respiratory Health Association applauds the FDA’s decision to move forward with greater regulation of these harmful tobacco products,” commented Joel Africk, RHA’s President & Chief Executive Officer. “We continue to fight to reduce the burden of tobacco-related lung illnesses in our communities and believe removing menthol products from store shelves is the right thing to do.”

The less harsh, mint-like flavoring of menthol products makes them easier to smoke and often appeals to younger or new smokers. Additionally, tobacco companies have historically marketed these products to teens and in minority communities. Studies have shown as many as 70% of teen smokers use menthol cigarettes. Of Black smokers, nearly 85% smoke menthol cigarettes compared to 30% of all white smokers – contributing to health disparities including risk for lung disease. In total, an estimated 18.6 million current smokers use menthol cigarettes.

“Big Tobacco – a multi-billion-dollar industry – has long used menthol flavoring to target new smokers and minority communities,” continued Africk. “The FDA’s move will prevent a new generation of smokers, help address significant lung health inequities, and save lives.”

The FDA’s rules also offer protections to consumers, as enforcement will only address manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. RHA looks forward to President Biden’s administration finalizing these new rules – and helping implement a policy that focuses on improving lung health and holding the tobacco industry accountable instead of criminalizing individual use of these products.

For media inquiries, please contact Joe Siebelts at jsiebelts@resphealth.org or (312) 628-0204.


Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906, focusing on lung health and clean air issues. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people live better through education, research, and policy change. As a policy leader, RHA is committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies. We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for federal oversight of tobacco and vaping products, smoke-free laws, Tobacco 21, and other tobacco product policies.

RHA hosts annual stair climb event outdoors in 2021

For Immediate Release

March 23, 2021

Erica Krutsch, Director of Marketing & Communications



Hustle Chicago® charity stair climb to take place outdoors, with masks April 18

The event benefits Chicago lung health nonprofit Respiratory Health Association

CHICAGO, IL – Amid other signs of spring and a slow return to post-pandemic ways of life, a Chicago tradition will take a new shape in 2021. The Hustle Chicago stair climb, formerly known as Hustle Up the Hancock, will take place Sunday, April 18.

This year’s event will be held outdoors at Soldier Field and will feature several changes to ensure a healthy and safe climb. These efforts included limited capacity, mask requirements, social distancing, and sanitization procedures. There is also a virtual event option available.

“We are excited to be able to host an in-person event for the first time in over a year,” said Joel Africk, President & CEO, Respiratory Health Association. “We are confident that by working with our host venue and medical experts we have modified Hustle Chicago stair climb to provide a safe experience. The event gives people a chance to exercise and support our mission of healthy lungs and clean air.”

Respiratory Health Association hopes the event will raise $500,000 to support local lung health work including educational programs for people living with diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and funding for research into new treatment options for lung cancer and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

Participants in the climb come from all walks of life and many are personally impacted by lung disease, including Ron Fiege, a resident of Ingleside, IL.

“I thought ‘what a great way to add a different exercise into my work out and raise some money for a very good cause’ because I have asthma and my sister and a few very close friends have COPD,” says Fiege, who is climbing in his second Hustle Chicago event this year. “When I talk to my sister, and she is smiling through her very short breath, it inspires me and reminds me that I’m very blessed to be as healthy as I’m at this point in my life.”

Limited spaces are still available for the in-person climb for a $55 registration fee and $100 charitable pledge. Virtual event registration costs $35. Visit resphealth.org/hustle to learn more and register.


A public health leader since 1906, Respiratory Health Association (RHA) is dedicated to its mission of preventing lung disease, promoting clean air and helping people live better lives through education, research and policy change. To achieve that goal, RHA collaborates with researchers in pursuit of new treatments and cures for disease like asthma, COPD and lung cancer; empowers adults and children by teaching them skills to manage their health; delivers evidence-based tobacco cessation programs; and works with lawmakers to craft innovative policies that build a more equitable and sustainable future.

Electric Vehicle Parking Ordinance Is a Lung Health Win for Chicago

In late April, the Chicago City Council, with support from Mayor Lightfoot, passed an ordinance which requires new residential buildings with five or chicago trafficmore units, and non-residential developments with 30 or more parking spaces to have 20 percent of parking spaces “electric vehicle ready.” Those spaces must have plugs to charge an electric vehicle (EV) – one that operates only on electricity – or wiring to add one in the future.

Respiratory Health Association supported this effort to require new buildings and developments in Chicago to provide charging options for EVs. People living in single family homes can easily plug-in an EV to charge overnight in a private garage. However, it is more difficult for those who rent or live in condos.

Over 20,000 electric vehicles are already operating in Illinois, primarily in the Chicago area. EVs operate without emitting harmful tailpipe pollution. They are also charged with electricity that is increasingly generated by clean wind and solar power. We expect the number of vehicle models to increase over the next several years as prices continue to fall.

Approximately 100,000 Americans die every year just from breathing dirty air, and that will continue until we stop the threat of air pollution. By making it easier for more people to drive electric, actions like this will help build a healthier future for everyone.

US Passes National Tobacco 21 Law

Enforcement Needed to Ensure Law Isn’t Just Smoke and Mirrors

Chicago, IL – In December 2019, Congress passed legislation raising the national purchase age of tobacco products (including e-cigarettes) from 18 to 21 years old. President Trump signed the bill into law and it took effect immediately, making it illegal for retailers to sell tobacco and e-cigarette products to anyone under 21.

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) fully supports efforts to raise the minimum purchase age of tobacco products, especially since 95% of adult smokers take up the habit before they turn 21. On its own, however, this new law is not enough. RHA urges further action from the federal government to prevent youth smoking including:

Enforcement of the new law: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it will take up to 270 days to develop and implement enforcement guidelines. Based on CDC estimates, more than 400,000 youth will smoke their first cigarette during this time. With 19 states including Illinois already enforcing their own Tobacco 21 laws, the federal government should have the necessary existing knowledge and resources to more efficiently craft policies for enforcing the national law.

Continued efforts to restrict youth access to tobacco and e-cigarette products: While Tobacco 21 is a great first step toward curbing teen smoking, a more comprehensive approach to preventing tobacco and e-cigarette use is needed. This includes moving forward with a previously proposed measure to remove all flavored vaping products (including mint and menthol) from the market. These flavoring have proven effective in attracting and addicting young smokers.

Tobacco 21 offers clear public health benefits, but it’s important lawmakers continue fighting disruptive practices from the vaping industry. Products remain unregulated and untested, and these companies should not be allowed to continue deflecting on safety concerns in light of this new law.

As new policies are developed, it is up to individual states to continue fighting for the health of teens and against the tobacco industry’s influence. RHA and its partners worked hard to ensure the passage of Tobacco 21 in Illinois, and now we urge Illinois lawmakers to move forward with a ban on flavored tobacco products.

Supporting additional public education and awareness initiatives: A key part of reducing youth smoking is showing teens that these products are dangerous and addictive. Expanding educational content and programs for youth can help offset the billions being spent by the tobacco industry to market tobacco and vaping products. Additional investment is needed at the state and federal level to provide necessary resources needed for these efforts.


FDA’s New E-Cigarette Policy Isn’t Enough to End Youth Vaping Epidemic

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL January 02, 2020 – Today the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new policies regarding enforcement against certain flavored e-cigarette products. These new policies, however, will fall far short of what is needed to keep teens away from these addictive nicotine products.

By only restricting flavors in cartridge-based products and allowing menthol flavorings to remain on the market in all forms, the FDA is leaving too many ways for Big Tobacco to target and addict kids across the country.

“Nicotine is an addictive, dangerous drug that harms brain development and poses other significant health risks,” says Joel Africk, President and CEO, Respiratory Health Association. “No level of chemical aerosol inhalation is good for the lungs, and other long-term health impacts of these products are completely unknown.”

The vaping industry’s illegal marketing to children has been well documented, and one of the industry’s largest players, JUUL, has been sued by the FDA for making illegal claims about the safety of their products.

“We cannot trust companies profiting off addiction with the health and safety of our nation’s children,” continues Africk.

The FDA’s new policy comes in response to skyrocketing rates of youth e-cigarette use. Currently one out of every four high school students reports using e-cigarettes and the majority report using products in candy and fruit flavors.


Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906 focusing on lung health and clean air issues. A policy leader, our organization remains committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies. We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for federal oversight of tobacco and vaping products, smoke-free laws, Tobacco 21 and other tobacco product policies.

Share the Love with Respiratory Health Association on Giving Tuesday

Respiratory Health Association is participating in Giving Tuesday – a global giving day celebrating philanthropy and charity work in communities – on December 3! By supporting a local charity like RHA, you are helping make a positive impact in your community. You are making a difference for yourself and your neighbors.

This year, all Giving Tuesday donations up to $1,000 will be matched by RHA’s Board of Directors! Thanks to this generous support, your gifts will reach even further to help our healthy lungs and clean air programs, including:

  • Delivering our Fight Asthma Now© education program for students in underserved communities
  • Supporting emerging researchers in their relentless pursuit for innovative new treatments for lung diseases
  • Advocating for clean air policy; ensuring everyone has clean air to breathe

For over 100 years, we have addressed the greatest lung health needs – from tuberculosis to lung cancer – because we believe in healthy lungs and clean air for all.


The challenge match will be given in the form of a donation to RHA’s general fund and will not impact individual fundraising totals.