In this interview, Isabel Saraiva – the new ELF Chair – introduces herself and talks about her priorities for the organisation in the next 3 years.
Could you start by talking about your background?
My academic background is in economics and management, but I started volunteering in hospitals and with deaf children in the 1990s. Unfortunately, I had to stop this voluntary work around the time I was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as I was no longer able to balance it with my job as the Executive Director of the Portuguese Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry. I retired from this job in 2007, and started volunteering with RESPIRA – the Portuguese Association of people with COPD and other chronic respiratory disorders. Through RESPIRA, I have done lots of awareness-raising work in schools, in hospitals and in businesses.
How did you come to get involved with ELF?
While volunteering in the field of lung health, I read everything I could about the topic, so I was aware of the work of the European Lung Foundation and the European Respiratory Society.
The first time I got formally involved with ELF was at the Barcelona Congress in 2013, where I was invited to a working group focusing on developing the right package of care to offer people with COPD after they are discharged from hospital.
RESPIRA has also been a member of the ELF patient organisation network for several years, so I have been engaged with the organisation in that way.
What are your priorities during your time as ELF Chair?
I have four key interlinking priorities for my time as ELF Chair:
These issues all represent huge challenges – but with the help of our partners, I hope that we can help to improve the situation.
What are you most looking forward to during your time as ELF Chair?
I am very enthusiastic about the high quality of work ERS and ELF carry out to improve lung health by bringing together high-calibre professionals and enthusiastic volunteers.
I am hugely appreciative of the volunteer aspect of ERS and ELF. It is through these enthusiastic people that an enormous amount of information, innovation and education is generated for the good of society in general. I think it really shows the strength and importance of civil society.
As ELF’s second patient Chair, how do you see the role of patients growing within the lung health community?
Patients are at the heart of what ELF and ERS do. In each of our activities, we have to think about the range of people affected by a condition, and their different needs. Whenever there is a question or a problem to solve, we should always make sure that patients are involved in finding a solution. The people that live with lung conditions day in, day out are the true experts, and are therefore in the best position to show us the way forward.
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