NEWS | November 1, 2017

Media advisory: Experts available for interviews during COPD Awareness Month


November is COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) Awareness Month and a good time to increase public awareness of symptoms and treatments for the lung condition, along with research that is expanding options and quality-of-life for patients. UC Davis Health physicians, surgeons and educators are available as media resources on COPD. Interviews with patients can be arranged as well. To schedule an interview, please contact Karen Finney at 916-734-9064 or

UC Davis COPD experts

Mark Avdalovic (pronounced av-DOLL-oh-vich) works with patients to develop COPD treatment plans that can include pulmonary rehabilitation, medications and oxygen therapy. He conducts research on vascular changes that complicate lung disease, gender differences in COPD, the relationship between COPD and cardiovascular disease, and new drugs targeting inflammation and airflow obstruction — the core symptoms of COPD. He also investigates the effects of e-cigarettes on the airways of established smokers and is part of a University of California initiative to use electronic medical records to address tobacco use and cessation during all doctor’s office visits.

Carroll Cross is an expert on genetic links to lung illness, including a predisposition for COPD known as alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency. This hereditary condition results in low concentrations of a lung-protective protein and leads to early onset of COPD — typically before age 50. Cross can address testing, advanced treatments and family counseling approaches to caring for patients with AAT deficiency. He can also address UC Davis research and community initiatives aimed at expanding screening efforts and treatments for AAT.

Elizabeth David is a thoracic surgeon who performs lung volume reduction surgery to remove non-functioning lung tissue and improve shortness of breath for COPD patients. The technique can often be completed using video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), which involves smaller incisions, decreased pain and less recovery time than traditional open-chest surgery. During VATS, a small camera projects images onto a high-definition screen and guides the surgeon to where abnormal tissue can be removed.

Kimberly Hardin directs UC Davis’ pulmonary rehabilitation program, which can improve quality of life for those living with lung disease and help ease the transition between inpatient and primary care. The program involves individualized exercise and breathing therapies together with education on smoking cessation, nutrition, sleep, medication and social activities. It also provides support and networking with others who are dealing with COPD, including a singing-therapy group that performs in the community (watch video).

Brooks Kuhn is collaborating with colleagues in critical care medicine, health informatics and engineering to incorporate mechanical ventilation data into electronic health records and improve the management of hospitalized patients experiencing respiratory failure due to COPD. His goal is to refine ventilation protocols based on specific breathing and disease characteristics in order to maximize patient comfort, safety and outcomes. 

Samuel Louie’s vision is to ensure that anyone who has asthma, COPD or both diseases can live without limits. His ROAD (reversible obstructive airway diseases) Program is a nationally recognized model for providing the coordinated, comprehensive care needed to reduce COPD-related exacerbations, hospital readmissions and deaths. ROAD offers a respectful, family-centered approach that encompasses individualized education plans, specialist referrals, a monthly support group and pager access to respiratory-care experts.

Brian Morrissey, a specialist in restrictive airway disease, is currently studying the use of a one-way valve device — inserted without surgery — that blocks diseased lung sections, allowing healthier lung tissue to expand and exhale air that would otherwise be trapped.

Kent Pinkerton, director of the UC Davis Center for Health and the Environment, uses animal models to identify stages of lung disease — from its early to advanced forms. He and his team are evaluating cellular changes involved in the onset of COPD, with the goal of developing novel interventions that lessen its extent and severity. His team identified inflammation and repeated airway epithelial cell injury as core components of COPD progression, and he is currently determining if statin medications and soluble epoxide hydrolase inhibitors can reduce that process.

Michael Schivo (pronounced SKI-voh) is an expert in new diagnostic technologies for lung disease. He is part of a team developing a portable and highly sensitive instrument that, based on breath biomarker analysis, can be used to detect COPD in its earliest stages and monitor the effectiveness of therapies. He also is a leader in educating the public about the lung health risks of non-cigarette forms of tobacco, including e-cigarettes and hookahs. Schivo will be leading a newly-established COPD clinic at UC Davis, and he aims to connect expert COPD clinical care with research and education (both public and medical trainees).

Cari Shulkin is a nurse and educator who leads smoking cessation programs for those seeking to reduce their risks of smoking-related disease such as COPD. Shulkin can address her comprehensive, evidence-based approach for treating tobacco use and addiction, which combines counseling with education, medication and nicotine replacement therapy.

Physician-scientist Amir Zeki investigates lipid and metabolic pathways and their impact on chronic obstructive lung diseases. Specifically, his lab studies the mevalonate and cholesterol pathways, their regulation of airway inflammation and remodeling, and their roles in the pathogenesis of severe asthma and COPD. A central focus of his lab is the development of novel therapeutics that target these pathways to improve symptom control for patients. Most recently, he has begun to characterize and investigate asthma-COPD overlap syndrome, a poorly understood yet severe clinical phenotype of obstructive airway disease.

More about COPD

COPD is a chronic lung disorder that progressively reduces breathing capacity to the point where mobility is restricted and hospitalizations are frequent. It is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., and is most commonly linked with exposure to tobacco smoke. COPD is estimated to affect 24 million Americans, about half of whom are yet to be diagnosed. Since 2000, it has killed more women than men. Key to identifying it is a test — known as spirometry — that measures the volumes of inhaled and exhaled air. COPD has no cure but is partially reversible with effective, comprehensive treatment. Additional information is available from the National Institutes of Health.