President's Message

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Leaders of the Lung World: Global Health and ATS

December 2016
David Gozal, MD, MBA

David Gozal, MD, MBA

I moved around a lot growing up. I had a multi-national household; my mother is from Spain and my father was from Argentina. I was born in Morocco. We lived all over. As a result, I was able to pick up seven languages which I still practice fluently today (read, write, speak).

I attended medical school in Israel and immediately after starting my studies, I was called upon to serve as an army medic. I didn’t even know how to tie a tourniquet then! The experience was formidable. My greatest takeaways were first, the nascent sense of belonging and the deep rooted and enduring connection that would last for a lifetime. The men whom I served alongside were my tribe. They were also some of my earliest teachers in what it means to care for someone—not just medically but in many other ways as well. Several summers later, an opportunity presented itself to volunteer as a medical student in the Kurdish regions of Iran. The decision was an easy one. I felt the need to go somewhere where I could make a difference. My resolve remained unflinching—even on Day 1 of my arrival, when I was given a mule with blankets as a saddle and rope for the reigns, and a very stubborn temper to cap it all. In two months of caring for those rural communities, I was transformed. I was deeply moved by the hospitality in all the villages, given what little they possessed. They, too, were my teachers, showing me that sometimes it is the most resource-poor who set no limits to their generosity and kindness.

Years later, upon completion of medical school, time came to specialize in medicine, and a Blue Journal article on sleep, or rather on arousal, sparked my curiosity. Before long that interest had developed into a fully-fledged passion, which not only drove me to develop the first pediatric sleep laboratory in Israel, but also spurred me to seek fellowship training in the U.S. Little did I know that yet another adventure would precede my formal training in the specialty of my choice. After multiple visits to African countries with the task of surveying rural health care, I was offered the opportunity to create something tangible and real, and essentially put in place a health care delivery system in Cameroon. With significant finessing, I managed to postpone the fellowship and instead say “yes” to adventure. The professional experience, excellent! The human experience, incomparable!!!

I finally made it to the U.S., a country that has been my home base since, comprised of academic posts at the University of Chicago (current), University of Louisville, Tulane University, University of California Los Angeles, and University of Southern California.

As the 2016 president and member of the ATS Executive Committee, a lot of what I do is at the international level. I spend some 20 weeks of the year traveling and working at 30-40,000 feet above sea level. But it is the connections and meeting colleagues all over the world, listening to their stories, challenges, goals and aspirations that make it all worthwhile. The huge amount of coffee cups and the sleepless nights in airplane seats—forgotten!

The scope of our Society is indeed global—our reach spans all major continents, facilitating the interaction of scientific ideas and stimulation of inquisitive minds.

The ATS is the tribe I now hold dearest to my heart. For all of you my village friends, any and all interested in improving lung health, you are most welcome here. You all belong.

Last Reviewed: September 2017