Monthly Letters to Pulmonary Patients by Thomas L. Petty

Thomas L. Petty, M.D.

Professor of Medicine, 
University of Colorado

Chairman, National Lung Health Education Program (NLHEP)


National Lung Health Education Program
A collaborative project with



HealthOne Center
1850 High Street
Denver, CO 80218
Phone: 303 839 6755
Fax: 303 832 8137

Learning from the History 
of Pulmonary Medicine

July 1998
PEP Pioneers
Second Wind
Torrance, California

     Dear Friends:

I am in the midst of making a fascinating movie which deals with the history of pulmonary medicine.  I wish to trace its roots and to portray the interesting renaissance that has taken place in the field of pulmonary diseases, as it has shifted from dealing with tuberculosis to other worldwide problems.  The introduction of key technologies such as the microscope, stethoscope, spirometer, the chest x-ray, and other imaging techniques have been conceived, developed, and applied beginning in the early 1800's.  How these technologies have helped physicians to understand the basic nature of disease processes, along with evolving microbiological and immunological techniques, is part of the story.  Some of the great leaders who led the field into its many frontiers will be cited.  It was my great pleasure to sit and visit with people as old as ninety, who have a clear recollection of the past, and accordingly, a sound foundation for a look to the future.

Today, we face major challenges with COPD, related lung cancer, and the remaining scourge of tuberculosis, which continues to plague mankind around the world.  Asthma, interstitial scarring lung disease, cystic fibrosis, and many rare disorders, although better understood, are still crying for a solution.

Today, we have in hand the knowledge and the technology to change the course of COPD and lung cancer.  We need to identify both diseases early when they can be treated, arrested, and/or cured.  We have the antimicrobial agents to deal with tuberculosis if we were to apply these efficiently and practically, without the barriers of politics and inaction.  We are still bound by roadblocks created by those who prefer the status quo.  We must push the frontier forward as we enter the new millennium.

I will be in touch next month.

     Your friend,

    Thomas Petty, MD

Last update:
14 March 2002