Sreedhar Nair, MD, FACP, FCCP, Founder and President of The National Emphysema Foundation (NEF), died on March 3, 2014, after bravely suffering from a long battle with heart disease. For the past 43 years, Dr. Nair has been the driving force behind the NEF and he has worked tirelessly to advance the efforts and the mission of the Foundation. Under his leadership, the NEF has played a pivotal role in increasing public awareness of emphysema by supporting educational, advocacy and research initiatives, and, through these efforts, in improving the quality of life for countless patients with emphysema and their caregivers.
Born in India, Dr. Nair came to the United States in 1951 for his medical residency and fellowship training at the New York Medical College, Metropolitan Hospital. He then served as an Eli Lilly Research Fellow and was a co-discoverer of Cycloserine, an anti-tuberculosis drug, which is still used today for drug-resistant tuberculosis. Of the era when pulmonary medicine was in its infancy, Dr. Nair was one of the first physicians to be board-certified in pulmonary medicine and was among the group of pioneering physicians who developed the field of critical care medicine. He began clinical practice in the late 1950s, quickly established a reputation as an astute and respected diagnostician, and over the course of a 40-year career would treat thousands of patients and help advance the practice of pulmonary and critical care medicine on a national and international level.
A man of ideas, his professional career was marked by a series of "firsts" and professional practice at the vanguard of pulmonary and critical care medicine. At Norwalk Hospital in Connecticut, he led the development of its Critical Care Unit and under his leadership, the Pulmonary Section of Norwalk Hospital flourished with the creation of several of its modern facilities, including the Hyperbaric Center, the Hinds Pulmonary Function Lab, the Sleep Center, and the Hinds Research Center. He also created the Pulmonary and Critical Care Fellowship programs at Norwalk Hospital and started one of the nations’ first schools of respiratory therapy. At Yale University, he helped establish the Boehringer Ingelheim Endowed Chair in Pulmonary Medicine. On a national and international level, Dr. Nair helped create and was a past Chairman of the International Society for Computers in Critical Care and Pulmonary Medicine. He was a consultant to the World Health Organization for many years and helped to improve the health of people in emerging nations through the use of improved technologies. He also organized and served on many national and international panels on the most pressing issues in pulmonary medicine and health policy. He was the editor of five books and published over 70 articles in peer-reviewed medical journals. Over the course of his career, Dr. Nair received many awards, including the Humanitarian Award of the American Lung Association, the William Tracey Award of the Norwalk Hospital, and the World Lung Health Award of the American Thoracic Society.
Yet among all these accomplishments, Dr. Nair's singular impact was no greater than in his visionary founding of the National Emphysema Foundation. In the early 1970s, emphysema was a disease not well known to the public, nor was there any national program to combat it. Concerned for the millions of patients suffering from this illness, Dr. Nair set about to establish a national organization to focus attention on this devastating disease with an aim of improving the lives of patients, their families and caregivers. With great persistence and effort, and assisted by the Beulah Hinds Foundation, Dr. Nair founded the National Emphysema Foundation in 1971.
Dr. Nair left an indelible mark on the National Emphysema Foundation. We will miss him greatly, but we at the Foundation are dedicated to continuing the work he championed in support of patients with emphysema and carrying out his vision for years to come.