Healthcare Professionals Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to Raise Awareness of Serious Lung Disease

Saturday, February 20, 2010 Respiratory Disease News
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- Doctors and Physician Assistant Embark on "Path to a Cure" in Support of Pulmonary Hypertension Awareness and Research -

SILVER SPRING, Md., Feb. 19 /PRNewswire/ --The Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) announced today that three

pulmonary hypertension (PH) specialists began their eight-day "Path to a Cure" journey to the 19,341-foot summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise global awareness of PH, a disease that affects the heart and lungs.  Raymond Benza, M.D., Robert Frantz, M.D., and Jessica Lazar, MPA, PA-C, are climbing Africa's highest peak in an effort to bring attention to this rare and serious disease and to raise funds for PH research and other programs benefiting the PH community.

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PH is a progressive disease in which high blood pressure in the pulmonary artery of the lungs makes it difficult for the heart to supply blood to the lungs.  Patients typically first report experiencing shortness of breath, a symptom also associated with more common illnesses such as asthma, which can lead to a delayed diagnosis.

"The high altitude will cause a temporary condition that mimics PH and its symptoms, allowing us a glimpse into the challenges our patients face every day," said Dr. Benza, Program Director Advanced Heart Failure, Transplant and Pulmonary Vascular Diseases, Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, Pa.  "In climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, we will no doubt experience not only breathlessness, but also the fear and isolation that our PH patients experience."

"It is important to us to show our patients that we're taking an extra step to go beyond just treating them," said Dr. Frantz, Director, Mayo Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic, Rochester, Minn.  "Hopefully with the money we raise, we'll be one step closer to a cure."

Path to a Cure aims to raise a minimum of $100,000 for the PHA's research and patient-support services.  The PH community has also organized a dozen Unity Walk events across the United States to help support the climbers' fundraising goal.  In addition to raising money, the Unity Walks are a way for community members to show support and encouragement for the three climbers.

"I'm proud to be taking on this challenge not only to raise awareness of this disease and the importance of early diagnosis, but also to better care for our patients," said Ms. Lazar, Director, Cardiology Quality, Research and Education, Gerald McGinnis Cardiovascular Institute, Allegheny General Hospital.  

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About Pulmonary Hypertension (PH)

PH affects approximately 200,000 patients worldwide and is characterized by continuous high blood pressure in the pulmonary artery in the lungs, resulting in an enlarged heart that can also lose its ability to pump.  Patients with PH suffer from chest pain, shortness of breath and other symptoms that are similar to more common diseases such as emphysema and asthma, so patients rarely receive a correct diagnosis in a timely manner.  Currently, there is no cure for PH, but a number of treatments are available that can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

About the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA)

Headquartered in Silver Spring, Md., PHA is the country's leading organization connecting pulmonary hypertension patients, families, and medical professionals.  Its mission is to find ways to prevent and cure pulmonary hypertension and provide hope for the community through support, education, advocacy and awareness.  PHA provides free access to information on its Web site about pulmonary hypertension and facilitates over 200 support groups around the nation.  To learn more, visit

The Path to a Cure program is made possible through a generous matching fund by Actelion and extensive media support by Gilead Sciences as well as by hundreds of donations from throughout the PH community.

SOURCE Pulmonary Hypertension Association


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