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Claire Doerschuk, MD - Division of Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care Medicine

Claire Doerschuk, MD

Professor of Medicine

Director of the Center for Airways Disease

Contact Information



Marsico Hall, 7205, 125 Mason Farm Rd
CB #7248
Chapel Hill, NC 27599


Claire Doerschuk, MD

Professor of Medicine

Director of the Center for Airways Disease

Areas of Interest

Host Defense Mechanisms in the Lungs, Bacterial and Viral Pneumonia, Acute Lung Injury/Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Burn Pit Combustion Products and Lung Health, Tobacco-induced Lung Disease


Dr. Doerschuk’s research addresses host defense mechanisms in the lungs, particularly the inflammatory and innate immune processes that are important in the pathogenesis and course of bacterial and viral pneumonias, acute lung injury/acute respiratory distress syndrome, lung disease induced by burn pit combustion products, and cigarette-smoke induced lung disease. Basic and translational studies address the mechanisms of host defense, including leukocyte recruitment, edema, bacterial clearance and repair/resolution of lung injuries, using in vivo, translational, cell biological, immunological, genomic and molecular approaches. These studies investigate pathogens that cause community-acquired and nosocomial pneumonias occurring in immunocompromised patients, including those with cancer. Her ultimate goal is to use this knowledge to develop therapies that enhance the inflammatory response when it is beneficial to the host and dampen this response when it is harmful. During viral and bacterial infections, leukocytes circulating in the blood stream are recruited to the site of infection in the lungs early in the inflammatory process. Studies address the mechanisms through which each leukocyte subtype is recruited. Current studies address how leukocytes recognize sites of infection and how these mediators induce changes in the adhesivity and mechanical properties of neutrophils, usually the earliest leukocyte to respond and accumulate in the lungs. Studies address the functions of each leukocyte subtype at the site of infection and in the resolution of injury. Examples of ongoing questions include the role of MERKT in macrophages, the function of interferons, and the identification and roles of neutrophil subsets. Changes in the transcriptome and the function of neutrophils as they migrate from the blood into the lung tissue and alveoli are studied through the use of single cell RNAseq and functional assays. Burn pits are designated areas on military sites for disposal of military waste by open air combustion, most recently in the Middle East. Ongoing studies define the type of lung injury induced by the combustion products in healthy lungs and lungs with either chronic bronchitis or allergic inflammation. The effect of exposure to these combustion products on subsequent responses to influenza infection is also an important focus. Dr. Doerschuk heads the Center for Airways Disease. The Center’s goal is to further our conceptual and mechanistic understanding of diseases that affect the airways of the lungs, particularly smoking-related diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer, as well as lung infections, including pneumonia. The Center’s mission is to stimulate research that defines airways disease at a molecular level, enabling early diagnosis, prognosis and personalized treatment of patients with these lung diseases. The ultimate goal is to translate research findings into better care for residents of North Carolina and throughout the nation, addressing both the disease predictors and therapies and the social and behavioral aspects of these diseases.


  • Undergraduate

    Wellesley College

  • MD

    Rush University

  • Residency

    University of Chicago

  • Fellowship

    University of British Columbia

We look to enhance the immune response when beneficial to the patient and to dampen it when not.

Claire Doerschuk