Women’s History Month: Celebrating Researchers Who Are Changing the Face of Lung Health

During March for Women’s History Month, the American Lung Association is shining a light on the research accomplishments of women, including researchers who are making key discoveries about flu and COVID-19 and those who are leading the way for others in the field of lung disease.

“Unfortunately, there are fewer women researchers than men due to women receiving less funding, fewer promotions and less credit for their research. This is unacceptable, so the American Lung Association is committed to elevating women accomplishments in our research,” said Deb Brown, Chief Mission Officer for the American Lung Association. “We are proud to have Catalyst researchers like Dr. Devarajan, who are in the early stages of their careers, scientists like Dr. Aydillo, who are making progress on better understanding immunity, and Dr. Dixon, who leads our Scientific Advisory Committee.”

Perhaps one of the most notable Lung Association researchers to date is Dr. Mary Ellen Avery, who in 1959 discovered that the lungs of babies with respiratory distress syndrome lack surfactant, a fatty substance which helps keep the lungs open. Dr. Avery’s finding saved the lives of more than 800,000 premature babies over the next 50 years and many more since. For Women’s History Month, we highlight three current researchers who are extending the tradition of excellence of women in science. 

Priyadharshini Devarajan, PhD, from Chan Medical School at the University of Massachusetts, was awarded an American Lung Association Catalyst Award to conduct research on T cells, a type of immune cell which could be the key to unlock long-term immunity in vaccines. Since viruses keep changing, Dr. Devarajan is studying the inside of the virus that doesn’t change, with the goal of creating more stable, long-lasting vaccines for respiratory viruses. 

“Awards for women at my career stages also help us balance our personal lives and stay in academia,” said Dr. Devarajan. “They give us the funding to be able to afford more resources to achieve that balance, like technical help to quickly finish an experiment and allow me to come home to my baby at a reasonable time.”

Teresa Allende-Aydillo Gomez, PhD, from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, received the COVID-19 Respiratory Virus Research Award to study nature of immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 and other human coronaviruses. She recently published a study that found concurrent vaccination against COVID-19 and influenza is safe and did not affect the immune response to the flu vaccine, but flu immunity seemed to be greater if the shot is given in the other arm from the COVID vaccine. This is important because it supports the clinical guidelines that seasonal flu and COVID-19 booster vaccines can be given at the same time with no negative effect to immune response.

Anne E. Dixon, MA, BMBCh, Professor of Medicine from the University of Vermont Larner college of Medicine, serves on the American Lung Association Board of Directors and is the Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee. Dr. Dixon’s scientific focus is obesity and asthma; she has published numerous papers, book chapters, and edited a book on this subject. A major part of her research career has been work in clinical trials with the American Lung Association Airways Clinical Research Centers (ACRC) network. To date, she has authored more than 130 peer-reviewed publications, an edited book, and 12 other book chapters.  

These women are part of the American Lung Association’s Research Institute, which was launched last year to increase lung disease research investment to $25 million, expand industry collaboration and empower promising scientists to accelerate discovery and innovation. For more information about the entire American Lung Association research team, visit Lung.org/research-team.

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
[email protected]

Asthma Basics Workshop - National
, | May 07, 2024
Asthma Basics Workshop - National
, | May 15, 2024