A profile of Professor Kevin Mortimer, The Union’s Director of Lung Health
“I have been a member of The Union for a number of years. My membership means I am part of an influential network of talented and passionate people who share a common interest in developing solutions to tackle global inequalities, with the ultimate goal for everyone to have access to basic and effective treatments for lung diseases.” says Professor Kevin Mortimer, Director of Lung Health, The Union.
Kevin Mortimer is a Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), an Honorary Consultant at Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and Director of Lung Health at The Union.
Speaking about his work he says: “I am lucky to have a job where one day rarely looks much like another. I spend most of my time concentrating on lung health and tuberculosis (TB) research projects in low- and middle-income countries – particularly in sub-Saharan Africa – alongside which I work as a consultant in Respiratory Medicine at one of our local hospitals in Liverpool, and I contribute to research, teaching and leadership at the LSTM and The Union.”
“I was originally inspired to work in lung health by working with leading experts in Respiratory Medicine at Nottingham City Hospital as a junior doctor. I was grabbed by the many opportunities to make a difference to patients affected by lung diseases.”
Professor Mortimer went on to do a PhD at the University of Nottingham where he subsequently took up a Clinical Lecturer post, developing his interest in clinical trials and non-communicable lung disease before moving to the LSTM and Aintree University Hospital in 2011. He is co-Deputy Director of the NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Lung Health and Tuberculosis in Africa at LSTM – IMPALA – and was co-Principal Investigator in the Cooking and Pneumonia Study (CAPS) – the initial results of which were released at The Union World Conference on Lung Health in 2016 in Liverpool.
Speaking about the study he says: “I am particularly proud of CAPS. This community-level cluster randomised controlled clinical trial of a cleaner-burning biomass-fuelled cookstove delivered a clear answer to the primary research question we had and surprised many by finding that the intervention was not associated with the expected benefits on pneumonia in the under 5s.
“As such this research challenged conventional wisdom about the benefits of clean cookstove programmes and has nudged the field in the direction of thinking more broadly about interventions to tackle air pollution with an aim of clean air for all to breathe.”
Professor Mortimer was introduced to The Union by his colleague at LSTM and former Union President Professor Bertie Squire. He said, “Bertie told me about the work of The Union, and the vision of finding health solutions for people living in poverty particularly resonated with me. It felt like an important network to be a part of.”
In 2018, Professor Mortimer became The Union’s Director of Lung Health in 2018. This new role was created to bring in renewed vision and expertise on lung health across the organisation. A key aspect to the role is working closely with the Adult and Lung Health Section (ACLH) of The Union’s membership. He said:
“It has been great to build a close working relationship with our members. Together we have developed a five-year strategic plan for lung health, which has set our long-term objectives. This work is a good illustration of the value of Union membership – thanks to the active involvement of the membership in putting this plan together we have an agreed strategy that we can rally behind.”
The plan sets out to achieve improved lung health, with a priority focus on asthma and COPD, child pneumonia, post-TB lung disease and environmental risk factors for lung disease. Lung health and well-being after TB is a major strategic theme within the new Strategic Plan for Lung Health, and for good reason, as Professor Mortimer points out: “There is so much exciting progress in the field of TB but many people who successfully complete TB treatment do not return to full health and are affected by problems such as post-TB lung disease, impaired well-being, general health and mental health problems, issues with socioeconomic status, stigma and discrimination.
“These are problems that have not really been addressed to date – at least not in proportion to the magnitude of the problems they represent.”
Professor Mortimer’s focus is now on action, saying: “It is now time to start delivering our objectives. We are hoping to deliver an international symposium on the sequelae and complications of TB in July 2019, in partnership with Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
“This will be the first ever dedicated international symposium on lung health and well-being after TB. We hope the meetings’ discussions will feed into a symposium on the same topic at the Union World Conference on Lung Health in India. If it proves to be successful it will become a regular meeting in some shape or form – perhaps integrated in some way with the Union World Conferences. The symposium is hoped to take place over a two-and-a-half-day period and will be structured with invited speakers and workshops, with clearly defined outputs including the identification of knowledge gaps and research priorities for the future.
“Opportunities like this are as a result of the partnership between the Lung Health Department and the members of ACLH section. It would not have been possible to achieve what we have in the past year without building this important relationship. When we work together it feels like we are part of a movement. A movement focused on advancing solutions to improve the health of people living in poverty.”
Looking forward to the next stages in his role as Director of Lung Health, Professor Mortimer comments: “We have an enormous mountain to climb to stop TB and prevent, control and cure lung diseases but I am confident if we combine skills, networks, and shared resources we can, together, reach the summit.”