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Dr. Paul Quinton, Nancy Olmsted Chair in Pediatric Pulmonology, discusses his personal and professional struggles with cystic fibrosis in this invited talk at the CF Research, Inc. (CFRI) 25th Annual Education Conference July, 2012.

Paul Quinton Ph.D. is a professor of pediatrics at University of California San Diego, and a professor of biomedical sciences at University of California Riverside, where he works to advance the understanding of the chronic illness, cystic fibrosis (CF). Dr. Quinton's interest in this genetic disease stems from his own diagnosis with CF when he was 19 years old. While he is 76 years old, the median lifespan for persons with CF is 44 years. Dr. Quinton is recognized for his work in discovering the defect in the CF gene that prevents chloride molecules from entering and exiting affected cells. His research explained why the sweat of patients with CF is abnormally salty and has helped us understand that this illness is a disease of abnormal salt movement that is associated with abnormal mucus. We recently had the opportunity to talk to Paul and to learn a little bit more about this tremendous Hero of Hope.

How did your diagnosis help pave the way for your career?

When I was an undergraduate student at the University of Texas in Austin, I started reading up on bronchitis and bronchiectasis out of curiosity about my own lung problems. When I noticed a footnote that referenced cystic fibrosis, the definition of the disease gave me chills because everything seemed to fit with what I was already experiencing. After much testing, I was diagnosed with CF. I went on to obtain a Ph.D. at Rice University and then began my career in the physiology department at UCLA where I started my work on methods of examining sweat ducts. So, my career has developed as a function of that work during the last several decades.

Can you describe your health maintenance routine?

I think every CF patient is unique and should seek his physician's advice above and beyond anything else.  Previously, my routine consisted of daily exercise, including biking to work. I also used a nebulizer very consistently and tried to be stringent about hygiene and avoid contact that may transmit bacteria and viruses in general. 

From a social perspective, how do you handle living with CF?

This has evolved for me over time. At first, I didn't want anyone to know that I had CF. Other than my family, and a very close friend, I just didn't talk about it.  I justified my attitude by thinking that I didn't want it to impact me professionally; I wanted to earn what I got, and not have sympathy impact decisions that affected my career. In the mid 80's I agreed to do an interview for a newspaper article featuring me, and I began to realize that there was little reason to hide my CF.  CF is an accepted part of my life, and I don't mind talking to people who are interested in learning about it or about my experiences with the disease.  If someone wants to speak to me about it, I try to do so as candidly and objectively as I can.

What are you most proud of?

Adopting and helping to raise my now 40 year-old son, and having a wonderful marriage, has made me very proud. Professionally speaking, I think I may have had an impact on the medical-scientific field and the progress that CF research has made in improving lives.  Working on cystic fibrosis has been a constant motivation and inspiration to me.

What advice would you share with younger people who have CF?

We must do what we have to do to stay healthy. Whatever the treatments are that keep your lungs clean, that's what you do. Cystic fibrosis is a part of our lives, but it does not define who we are as individuals. I believe that to feel content, we all need to feel needed. We are all needed in many ways. Finding how we are needed, and doing that thing, is very important to living the best life we can.

Please note: The information contained in these Heroes of Hope™ Living with CF award recipient biographies is not regularly updated. This Hero was interviewed December 11, 2009. This information is representative only of the moment in time in which the Hero was interviewed.10087102