COPD Foundation Founder John W. Walsh Retires

February 15, 2017

The COPD Foundation’s Board of Directors announced today that John W. Walsh, founder of the COPD Foundation, has retired from the COPD Foundation so that he may focus on his recovery from an injury he incurred last year.

The Foundation’s Board elected John as its first Director Emeritus in recognition of his extraordinary service to the Foundation, and his profound commitment to improving the lives of those affected by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“I am honored to have worked closely with John over the past two decades to advocate for the 30 million Americans with COPD. John’s tireless commitment to the COPD community and his unabashed enthusiasm for being ‘an impatient patient’ continues to inspire me and the work we do at the Foundation” said Byron Thomashow, MD, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the COPD Foundation.

“John W. Walsh is the reason that we have a COPD Foundation. John is the reason our disease is finally on the lips of millions of Americans. John continues to be the inspiration for the 15 million of us who live with COPD and will be the inspiration for the 15 million who also have the disease but don’t know it yet. The debt of the COPD community to John Walsh can only be repaid by continuing his work, inspiring new champions for COPD who will advocate, engage in research, change public policy and ultimately cure this disease” said Grace Anne Dorney Koppel, MA, JD, President of the COPD Foundation.

John was diagnosed with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (Alpha-1) in 1989, and upon learning there was no organized effort to promote research and find a cure for the disorder, he decided to dedicate his life’s work to this end. In 1995 John co-founded the Alpha-1 Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the leadership and resources for the Alpha-1 community.

A pioneer in this field, John created the COPD Foundation in 2004, the only organization in the United States solely dedicated to addressing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The Foundation’s strides in research, advocacy and public policy, community outreach, and care delivery can be attributed to John’s vision to improve health, promote worldwide detection, and find a cure for COPD.

John’s commitment to helping individuals living with COPD/Alpha-1 has earned him some of the highest distinctions from the medical community. The FDA has awarded him the Commissioner’s Special Citation for “pioneering collaboration in orphan drug development,” and the University of Florida’s Distinguished Achievement Award recognized him for “his many years of outstanding and distinguished contributions to humanity, the medical profession, the nation, state, community, and the University of Florida.”

John was the recipient of the American Thoracic Society’s Public Service Award in 2008 and received a Presidential Commendation from the Society’s president. He was inducted into the COPD Hall of Fame in 2012 at the COPD8 Conference in Birmingham, UK. In December 2016, John was honored with the COPD Foundation’s Visionary Award at the Air Affair Benefit. The Foundation’s strides in research, advocacy and community outreach can be attributed directly to John’s vision to improve the health of those affected by COPD, promote worldwide detection and find a cure for COPD.

While John continues with his recovery, his family is providing him with remarkable care and they continue to ask for privacy during this time.

The COPD Foundation again would like to thank John for his innumerable contributions. The COPD community would not be where it is today without the trailblazing efforts of John W. Walsh and we remain committed to carrying on the vision he so wholeheartedly embraced.