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Akpinar-Elci Named American Thoracic Society Fellow

By Irvin B. Harrell

Muge Akpinar-Elci, chair of Old Dominion University's School of Community & Environmental Health and director of the Center for Global Health, recently was named an American Thoracic Society (ATS) fellow at the organization's 115th annual international conference.

The ATS conference is the longest-running, large-scale event of its kind, offering groundbreaking research in pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine. About 15,000 people attend from across the globe.

"I am humbled by the honor and proud to be able to bring this recognition to ODU," she said. "I also believe this achievement will serve our college to build the School of Public Health and further the mission of ODU in the community."

Founded in 1905 to combat tuberculosis, the ATS has grown to tackle asthma, COPD, lung cancer, sepsis, acute respiratory distress and sleep apnea, among other diseases.

There are only 93 ATS fellows. During the conference, Akpinar-Elci gave a talk titled "The Global Perspective of Climate Change," which the ATS published in its daily bulletin.

As one of the presenters, Akpinar-Elci - who has been speaking about climate change for 10 years - said that preparing her presentation was a stark contrast to how she presented in the past.

"This year it was overwhelming, because when I started this 10 years ago there was not that much information. But now, there is overwhelming evidence of climate change," she said. "It's a survivor issue right now, no longer just something happening 'somewhere.'"

The effect of climate change on allergies and chronic respiratory diseases isn't just affecting low-income countries, but all of us, she added.

Clinicians and researchers in many other fields attend the annual conference, enriching conversations that lead to insights which ultimately improve patient care.

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