Patients Share Perspectives During Symposia

Patients and their families are central to the mission, activities, and programs of the ATS, and throughout ATS 2014, attendees have a chance to hear from 20 patients who are providing their experiences and unique insight at symposia.

One of these patients includes Lt. Katie Lessard, USN Ret., San Diego, who was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension in 2007 and underwent a double lung transplant in 2012.

“It’s important to value our opinions about how we see things and how we want things to go,” says Lt. Lessard, 36. “When physicians deal with someone who has a chronic illness, especially one who has been transplanted, chances are that the patient is going to be extremely proactive with his or her own care. It’s a team effort.”

Lt. Lessard will speak at “The New Veterans: Care Needs and Lessons Learned” from 8:15 to 10:45 a.m. today in 11 A-B San Diego Convention Center, which will prepare attendees to address new and emerging problems in this patient population.

With 2.4 million U.S. men and women returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, symposium organizers note that many veterans do not always seek care through the Veterans Affairs system. These patients have problems unique to their service and very different from those veterans of WWII through Vietnam, organizers note.

“When I thought veteran, I used to think of WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam vets who were the folks I saw day in and day out in my training,” says Symposium Co-chair Theodore Iwashyna, MD, PhD, associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan and a research scientist at the VA Center for Clinical Management Research. “Yet increasingly, the VA workload is folks coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Dr. Iwashyna previously served on the Institute of Medicine’s Gulf War and Health Committee, which recently published a report on the long-term consequences of blast injuries. His presentation will be “Who the New Veterans Are.”

“This is relevant not just to VA doctors, but also to anyone who cares for patients around the spectrum,” says Dr. Iwashyna, who also is co-director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program and a faculty associate with the Survey Research Center Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. “This isn’t just 18-year-olds who are going off to war. A surprising number of returning veterans are 45 years and older.”

The Wednesday symposium “The Intereconnectedness of Lung Diseases” from 2 to 4:30 p.m. in 30 C-E (Upper Level) San Diego Convention Center, will include the perspective of Adam Amdur, 40, a sleep apnea patient in Sarasota, FL. His talk is entitled “The Roller Coaster of Lung Disease Diagnosis and Treatment.”

“I’m a patient; I’m a father of a patient; I am a husband of a patient; I’m a son of a patient; and I’m a brother of a patient,” says Mr. Amdur, who is chief operating officer of the American Sleep Apnea Association. “In the midst of getting myself diagnosed and treated, my daughter was diagnosed at age 2, which has prevented her a lifetime worth of incremental obstacles. My wife has upper airway resistance syndrome.”

Though he was diagnosed four years ago, Mr. Amdur suspects he has had sleep apnea since he was 2.

“It wasn’t as simple as getting diagnosed right off the bat, getting treated, and all my problems going away,” Mr. Amdur says. “People like myself can go a long time before being diagnosed with sleep apnea, and learning to acclimate to CPAP therapy is an absolute roller coaster of a ride.

“I am a big advocate for early screening. At our organization we’re very much about bringing all the doctors together—from pulmonary, ENT, neurology, and cardiovascular—and out of their silos so they can treat together and in the patient’s best interest.”

The program is sponsored by the Public Advisory Roundtable and the Assembly on Clinical Problems.

See right for more patient perspectives at ATS 2014.