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   (Dec. 23, 1932 - - Dec. 12, 2009)

Dr. Thomas Petty, born in Boulder Colorado on December 23, 1932, completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Colorado in 1955, and his doctorate degree from University of Colorado School of Medicine in 1958. There he received the first of more than 25 career awards as the top graduating student. After completing his internship at Philadelphia General Hospital and assistant residency at the University of Michigan he returned to University of Colorado School of Medicine for his junior and senior residency.  By 1963, he was the Chief Resident in Internal Medicine at University of Colorado School of Medicine.

The 1960's saw major changes and improvements in technology in pulmonary medicine. Dr. Petty was there at the beginning and became a leader and a major force in bringing about change at the University of Colorado, where so many important discoveries took place. His early work led to discoveries that identified Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) - a previously unrecognized form of a sudden and devastating lung injury. Today more than 65 percent of ARDS patients survive. 

The 60's also saw one of his earliest and most recognized career achievements. His work in the University of Colorado involved the oxygen equipment being used in the space program at NASA. He discovered that the same type of apparatus that worked to help astronauts breathe in space could help patients with lung disease breathe better. From this came studies involving portables, especially those utilizing liquid oxygen. Studies then began to also show the value of long term oxygen treatment. He would become an international authority on respiratory disease and be known as the father of home oxygen.

Some of the items in his curriculum vitae (medical resume), which is over 50 pages long, are:

  • Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver

  • Professor of Medicine at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago

  • Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver

  • Organizer and founding President of the Association of Pulmonary Program Directors

  • Founding Chairman of the National Lung Health Education Program

  • President of the American College of Chest Physicians

  • Author of over 800 articles in medical journal

  • Author or editor of 45 books or editions

  • Wrote the introduction or forwards for dozens of publications by others

In a strange twist, he would become a patient, having developed COPD.  As a patient he authored "Adventures of an Oxy-Phile", providing the unique viewpoint of both a doctor and patient for patients who have the need for supplemental oxygen.

Without his efforts and those of his close associates, COPD protocols and treatments would be years behind where they are now. The COPD Community has lost one of its greatest teachers and friend. Dr. Tom was there for us all - including physicians, therapists, nurses, caregivers, and especially patients. 

As a physician with COPD, he taught us by his own example and experience.  His leadership in COPD education in all areas, including testing, early diagnosis, rehab, and the use of supplemental oxygen, is unparalleled.  He will be missed by all in the COPD world.


Originally in COPD International newsletter
Monday, December 14, 2009 -- Volume #8 -- Issue #50