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Hair turns blue to support pulmonary fibrosis research

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2014 - Spring

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The first Wednesday in September was a busy day at the Section of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine. The section’s hallways on the fourth floor of The Anlyan Center were awash in black–suited young doctors interviewing for fellowships. The section also held its first weekly grand rounds and first faculty meeting of the academic year. Amidst all those activities, however, was a fun event that brought physicians, residents, fellows, and staff together over lunch and, well, blue hair.

More than 100 people had their hair streaked with blue or added a blue extension to raise awareness of pulmonary fibrosis during the Blue It Up campaign. September is Global Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month.

The disease affects as many as 200,000 people in the United States and about 40,000 Americans die of it each year. In 2013, Diane Reichert, a patient with the disorder, began the first Blue It Up campaign at her local hair salon, offering to donate $10 to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF) for each woman who volunteered to get a blue streak or extension in her hair. This year Reichert, the PFF ambassador, came to Yale to promote the event.

“My fingers, toes, and lips turn blue at times, so going Blue to raise awareness for this disease made sense to me,” Reichert said. “I am thrilled that Dr. Kaminski and so many others have taken the challenge to ’Blue it Up for PF.’ The more blue that makes it into the public eye, the more conversations will occur about this disease. My hope is that one day pulmonary fibrosis will have a treatment and it starts with raising awareness.”

The goal of Blue It Up is to raise money for research and increase awareness of this disease of unknown origin. The disease, a buildup of scar tissue in the lungs that makes it hard to pump oxygen into the blood, typically strikes people in their 50s or 60s. It is a major area of focus in the section led by Naftali Kaminski, M.D., Boehringer–Ingelheim Endowed Professor of Internal Medicine.

Kaminski, who sported a blue wig and had his sideburns colored blue, offered to donate $10 for each member of the section (faculty, administration, and staff) who agreed to dye a blue streak in their hair or add a blue extension and challenge others to do the same. On Wednesday a fourth–floor lunch area was standing room only as people lined up to have their hair streaked by Jennifer Novicki and Rochelle Goodwin, Kaminski’s administrative assistants.

With blue hair extensions, wigs, and dyed streaks the participants at the event attended Kaminski’s talk at grand rounds, “The Changing Landscape of IPF: From Hopeless to Exciting.” At the end of the talk participants challenged other centers in the country to follow suit and “Blue it Up for IPF.” (A video clip of the talk can be seen at http://vimeo.com/user31926071/blueup4pf.)

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