PH Specialist Story
Ronald Oudiz, MD
Meet Dr. Ronald J. Oudiz: An Advocate for PH Patients
Dr. Ronald J. Oudiz is a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and director of the Pulmonary Hypertension Center. He also serves as a faculty cardiologist at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Southern California. His research focus has been to describe the physiologic abnormalities that are caused by PH using measurements of lung gas exchange during exercise and to study exercise rehabilitation as a treatment modality for patients with PH.
In 2011 Dr. Oudiz, a member of PHA’s Scientific Leadership Council, received the Pulmonary Hypertension Association Award of Excellence in PAH Care. He is a past editor-in-chief of PHA’s medical journal Advances in Pulmonary Hypertension, and he is the current editor of Pulmonary Hypertension: A Patient’s Survival Guide.
You specialize in cardiology. What sparked your interest in pulmonary hypertension?
Bruce Brundage, a pioneer in the PH field, was the chief of cardiology at Harbor-UCLA and he was the main reason I went to train there. This was back when epoprostenol was still being studied for FDA approval, and Bruce and the Harbor-UCLA PH nurse coordinator, Joy Beckmann, were in the process of teaching other doctors how to use it. I first started doing echocardiograms on the patients who came to see Bruce in the clinic; then I dove into the database in an effort to show the rest of the world what epoprostenol could do for PH patients. Right after that, Bruce put me in charge of a clinical trial; a year later he semi-retired, and the rest is history.
What advances have you seen in the treatment of PH patients since you started practicing?
Epoprostenol was not even approved when I started. Having been a part of all of the studies of newer medications for PH, including bosentan, treprostinil, iloprost, sildenafil, ambrisentan and tadalafil, it has truly been amazing to see the field evolve. So many more patients are being treated now, and so many more patients, caregivers, scientists and clinicians are fighting the fight — the progress has been phenomenal.
What do you find to be the most encouraging advances currently taking place in the PH field?
We are hoping that as scientists discover new molecules and companies put these discoveries to the test, there will be breakthroughs that, looking back, will make the current therapies seem like small potatoes. We are also hoping that scientists discover new pathways to target, not just new molecules. In particular, the sequencing of the human genome has fostered discoveries in many areas, but we have not realized the true power of these discoveries for PH. If scientists can “unlock” more of the secret “code” that makes PH what it is, it will be a tremendous aid to helping us get closer to a cure. I have to say I am also excited about the concept of exercise as a way to improve and empower PH patients’ lives. We’d like to prove that exercise in fact is a safe and effective way to manage PH patients.
What are some of the rewarding “behind the scenes” projects you’re working on to advocate for patients?
PHA has been leading the activities in PH advocacy; I am only helping things move along. I am the chair of one of the newest PHA committees called the “Insurance Advocacy Committee.” This committee supports PHA in its mission to educate the PH community about insurance while increasing payer awareness about PH treatment and diagnosis best practices. We want to assure that both public and private payers create and adhere to medically sound policies in the best interest of PH patients.
How did you become involved with PHA?
My first PHA International Conference was in Chicago in 2000. Soon after I arrived at the Conference hotel, I met so many luminaries in the field all in one place, and all were so welcoming and down to earth. I was really touched. Then, seeing all of the patients and families and caregivers and all of the volunteerism and the camaraderie, I couldn’t wait to come back to Harbor and tell all of our patients what they were missing.
What is the most important piece of advice you give your PH patients?
They will likely know more about PH than almost anyone they are going to meet, so they are their own best advocates.
Do you have any advice for new practitioners in the PH field?
The PH medical community is a tightly knit group that takes pride in providing patients with all we can. These medical professionals are a wonderful bunch of welcoming and nurturing individuals who, despite their passion for PH, would love to be out of work when a cure is found.
Interview conducted by Rebecca Kurikeshu, PHA Medical Outreach Program Associate