CHEST Keynote: Reflections of a Lifetime Practicing Chest Medicine Written by Kristin Crowe

August 16, 2018 by CHEST Guest Writer

Dr. Richard Irwin, the Editor in Chief for the journal CHEST®, and Chair of UMass Memorial Medical Center’s Department of Critical Care, has observed the way patient-focused care has evolved through the years. He will be speaking on this topic at the CHEST 2018 opening session on Sunday, October 7.

During Dr. Irwin’s early years at UMass Memorial, the then chairman of Medicine, Dr. James Dalen, a longtime CHEST member who was about to begin his term as CHEST President, strongly encouraged Dr. Irwin to join the organization. By joining the college, Dr. Irwin was able to form strong connections with other influential chest medicine professionals, such as Dr. Jack Weg, a former CHEST President, and Dr. Alfred Soffer – who was the Editor in Chief of CHEST.

While Dr. Irwin was not yet a member of the CHEST community, the college became instrumental in focusing Dr. Irwin’s academic career because of a manuscript that he and colleagues had been working on, titled Cough. A Comprehensive Review. After submitting the early version of his manuscript to ten different journals and being rejected by each one, Dr. Irwin contacted Dr. Soffer and asked him, if he had the time, could he please read it and offer advice. Dr. Soffer, who had a reputation of being a mentor with endless generosity of his time, reviewed the manuscript and worked with Dr. Irwin on the article, leading to its publication in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 1977. Dr. Soffer’s kindness would lead to the start of Dr. Irwin’s 40-year career of studying cough.

Dr. Irwin has been very influential within the CHEST organization throughout his career. In addition to his years as the Editor in Chief of CHEST®, he also served on every major CHEST committee and held the office of CHEST President in 2003-2004. “If you want to join a society that has a family-feel to it and focuses on clinical care and education, then CHEST is the place to be.”

Throughout his years as a physician, Dr. Irwin has been interested in the way physicians learn. During his formative years, he says the way he learned was to “see one, do one, teach one.”  He gives the example of the flexible fiber-optic bronchoscope, which was developed in Japan in the late 1960s, arriving in the US in 1970. It was a new way of performing bronchoscopy, which led to physicians reading about it, and then putting what they read into action. Now – there are high fidelity simulation instruments and models and a lot of experiential learning prefacing the use of new technologies for patients. We have CHEST to thank for being a leader in experiential learning and an international resource for simulation training.


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