History of the Division

Training in Pulmonary Medicine began at UNC in 1952 with the opening of a 4 year medical school in Chapel Hill. Dr. Tom Barnett founded the division with a research focus on the mechanics and control of ventilation in lung diseases. In 1975, Dr. Philip Bromberg was recruited from the Ohio State University to succeed Dr. Barnett as chief of the division, establishing fiberoptic bronchoscopy and inhalational toxicology capabilities at UNC. In 1975, the division obtained its first NIH training grant to train physician/scientists, and has maintained this training grant for the past 31 years. During his tenure as chief, Dr. Bromberg founded the Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma, and Lung Biology (CEMALB). In 1980, together with EPA colleagues, a Cooperative Agreement was established and funded by NIH bringing considerable resources to Chapel Hill to study air pollution, inhalational toxicology, and lung biology. Today the CEMALB conducts a diverse array of investigation into the mechanisms by which inhalational pollutants influence lung biology, physiology, and pathophysiology related to asthma and COPD.

In 1977, Dr. Richard Boucher was recruited to UNC to initiate a research program centered on ion and water transport across airway epithelia, leading to the development of a research program focused on the pathogenesis of cystic fibrosis. In 1990, Dr. Boucher succeeded Dr. Bromberg as chief, and the CF center evolved into one of the largest CF research centers in the world. Research expanded into all aspects of airway epithelial cell biology, expanding the focus of work to other diseases afflicting the airways including COPD and other causes of bronchiectasis.

Dr. James Donohue joined the faculty at UNC in 1975. After developing international recognition for his clinical trials in asthma, COPD, and sarcoidosis, Dr. Donohue succeeded Dr. Boucher as chief in 2002. During his tenure Dr. Donohue has continued expanding clinical research at UNC in asthma, COPD, sarcoidosis, and ARDS, while at the same time beginning a pulmonary immunobiology research initiative bringing basic and translational research in lung transplant rejection, asthma, and sarcoidosis to the division.

Over the past 55 years the leadership of the division has established the infrastructure for an exceptionally diverse training program in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. Together, the vast array of pulmonary pathology encountered at UNC Hospitals and the spectrum of basic, translational, and clinical research ongoing in the laboratories of the division, offers our Fellows an outstanding training experience.