The lecture, "Breathing Not So Freely," is the first in a series of five, which are open to the general public. Other lecture topics include digestion, fetal therapy, genomics and cancer.
"The purpose of this occasion is to share information that we think is valuable to our community," said Dr. Myron Cohen, professor of medicine.
Three medical gurus were on tap Tuesday to speak about asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as well as possible prevention and care.
Dr. David Peden, professor of pediatrics, began the lecture by discussing the asthma epidemic.
"Asthma is truly a worldwide problem," Peden said. He said there are about150 million asthmatics globally.
Peden said that dander and saliva from cats, dust mites' fecal matter and cockroaches are common irritants of asthma. "Cockroach allergy kills people," Peden said. "The people that it kills are primarily children in African American urban settings."
Dr. James Donohue, professor of medicine, continued the lecture by addressing the issue of chronic bronchitis and emphysema, collectively known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.
"(COPD) has become the fourth leading cause of death," Donohue said.
He showed an array of spoof ads criticizing cigarette smoking, including one of two Marlboro men and the phrase, 'Bob, I've Got Emphysema."
Donohue also said that COPD is plaguing women in large percentages and that tobacco-related diseases will soon move to the third leading killer.
Donohue cited maternal smoking, low birth rate, serious illness in the first few years of life, uncontrolled asthma and working in a dusty environment as COPD causes.
But he said there is hope even if someone is diagnosed with COPD. "It is not the kiss of death, but it could be if you keep smoking."
The final speaker, Jeanie Mascarella, pulmonary nurse clinician, focused on ways to limit asthma attacks and increase awareness of new medications that will soon be on the shelves.
"All of the inhalers (currently using chlorofluorocarbons) will be removed from the market over the next few years," she said. "Now what is going to be coming out are dry powder devices and inhalers with a new fluorocarbon."
One Chapel Hill resident, Eleanor Morris, said she was very pleased with the event. "This is the third (Mini-Medical School lecture) that I have come to," she said. "I don't suffer from asthma but I have a granddaughter who does and I learned much more about it."
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