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Tampa VA Lung Team Steps Up to Raise Awareness

Precious Leaks-Gutierrez, Coordinator, Dr. Elaine Tan and Dr. Gopi Prithviraj gathered together after climbing 42 stories in downtown Tampa, FL.
Pictured from left to right: JAHVA Lung Precision Oncology Program team: Precious Leaks-Gutierrez, Coordinator, Dr. Elaine Tan and Dr. Gopi Prithviraj gathered together after climbing 42 stories in downtown Tampa, FL.

Apr 6, 2024 – The Lung Precision Oncology Program team from James A. Haley VA, dedicated to advancing lung health, recently participated in the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb.

Taking the challenge to help bring awareness to the importance of respiratory health, the Lung Precision Oncology Team stepped up to participate for the second time at the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb, held in downtown Tampa, Fl on April 6.

Alongside over 600 climbers, the LPOP team ascended 42 stories of the Bank of America building. Their motivation? Not just to have a hard workout and bond as colleagues, but to raise awareness about the importance of lung health while making a positive impact in the community.

The metabolic process is something most people might not thing about when looking at respiratory and cardiovascular health,” said Precious Leaks-Gutierrez, LPOP Lung Clinical Research Coordinator, who holds an Ed.D., MBA, and CCRP. "However, cells in the body need a continuous flow of oxygen from the respiratory system that works with the circulatory system to perform cellular metabolism.”

The LPOP Team specializes in finding new ways to revolutionize lung cancer care for Veterans. This research initiative in VISN 8 spans a network of eight major VA hospitals using clinical trials to fight lung cancer. Their work is crucial to the detection, treatment and prevention of lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S and the deadliest cancer among Veterans. However, due to lung cancer screening and earlier detection, the death rate for lung cancer has been declining since 2004.

What can you start doing today to improve your respiratory health? According to the American Lung Association:

  • Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke as much as possible. Quitting smoking is the best way to improve lung health, with lungs repairing themselves within hours of quitting. Team Tampa proudly has a smoke and vape-free campus to ensure the health of our staff and Veterans.
  • Start exercising regularly. Physical activity makes the cardiovascular and respiratory systems work harder and strengthen to give muscles additional oxygen. As the body becomes more efficient at getting oxygen into the bloodstream and transporting it to muscles, shortness of breath improves while exercising. If able, taking the stairs instead of the elevator at JAHVH can help you keep in shape.
  • Maintain a healthy diet. Lungs and oxygen are involved in the process of changing food into energy, otherwise known as the metabolism. Keeping a diet of a variety foods is important because no one single food can provide all the nutrients the body needs. Dietitians at JAHVH are prepared and able to help Veterans learn how to cultivate a diverse and nutritional diet.
  • Stay hydrated. Water helps the lining of lungs and airways thin, which makes breathing easier. Dehydration results in respiration slowing down, which can also lead to illness or more severe allergies. Water makes up 65% of the human body, so staff dietitians recommend drinking enough fluids to need to use the restroom every 2 to 4 hours.
  • Get screened. Ask providers to about your eligibility for lung cancer screenings can save your life. Low-dose CT scans can reduce deaths in those at high risk by detecting lung cancer before symptoms appear. [insert screening tie-in for the hospital]

“It was so rewarding to show support for our Veterans while educating about lung and cardiovascular health,” said Leaks-Gutierrez.

To learn more about JAHVH’s LPOP mission and goals, visit Tampa VA Lung Precision Oncology Program (LPOP)


Op-Ed by Rachelle Smith, Public Affairs Specialist