WSPHA founders portraits. An interview with Professor Lewis Rubin

Professor Rubin, would you please introduce yourself?

My name is Lewis Rubin and I’m a Professor Emeritus from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine in the United States. I am a pulmonologist specialist in lung disease and my professional interest my entire medical career has been patients with Pulmonary Hypertension.

The World Symposia has had incredible success. Has it always been like this?

The history of the World Symposium is a very unique one in the medical profession; the very first one in 1973 was the first time that a small group of physicians who were interested in Pulmonary Hypertension came together to define what Pulmonary Hypertension is and agreed to collaborate and work together.
Pulmonary Hypertension is not a very common disease. Until that time, there was no group working together and since then every 5 years we’ve now had World Symposia and the number of attendees and the number of experts just has enlarged tremendously. That means that there are so many more physicians, scientists, nurses who are interested in Pulmonary Hypertension and therefore there are more people working on new treatments in developing new ideas and new treatments.

This WSPH is an opportunity to work together with people with similar interests and expertise to be able to define the direction forward, which you can’t do in isolation.


Where did your interest in Pulmonary Hypertension come from?

I went to medical school in New York City and then I did my training in Internal Medicine at Duke University North Carolina and was there, when I first had a patient to take care with Pulmonary Hypertension. The first patient I ever had with Pulmonary Hypertension.
I didn’t know anything about it so I went and took to my textbook of medicine that has everything in it, every condition. I looked up “Pulmonary Hypertension” and there were two sentences, just two sentences and they said: “nobody knows what causes it, there’s no treatment and everybody who get sick dies“. I thought it sounded very challenging, very important and so with that patient began my interest in Pulmonary Hypertension.

How will this new Association impact on the Pulmonary Hypertension world?

I think the important role that WSPH has had and will continue to have, is that it is the one place in time where the experts in the world of this condition can meet and talk together about important issues for which we don’t have answers or which we haven’t resolved; it helps create a path forward of the important aspects that we need to address to be able to develop even more better and better treatments, but also to help educate physicians around the world, what is the best way to take care of patients now.

You are founding partner of the World Symposia on Pulmonary Hypertension Association together with Professor Simonneau, Galiè and McLaughlin. How would you describe your relationship with them and how do you collaborate?

Each and every one of my three colleagues on the committee is long-standing friends and colleagues, professional colleagues that I’ve worked with for many years and I think what makes them very special for me, is that I learn so much when I interact with them. We talk to each other, about things, problems, questions we have and to have their experience and their knowledge to share just makes everything goes better. We’re not fighting with each other for “… my ideas are better than yours, I’m more important than you are”. You know sometimes it happens in medicine and science. We each have, I think, tremendous respect for the other colleagues and therefore we work together and we share the same goal. The same goal is to do even better for patients with PH.

What is your experience with Pulmonary Hypertension disease?

I have many memories and experiences that I had as a physician caring for patients with Pulmonary Hypertension including many patients who were involved in the very early clinical trials with new therapies for Pulmonary Hypertension. That has given me a great deal of satisfaction knowing that I’ve contributed to the health of those patients and before I and my colleagues were around they would have no choices for Pulmonary Hypertension, they would all die.

What progress has been made in Pulmonary Hypertension drugs?

There are many pharmaceutical companies who have a compound of drugs on the shelf and they don’t know what to do with it, but they know that PH has been a successful field to develop drugs, and also successful financially for the companies that developed it. So they count to take something off the shelf and say: “We are going to study this for PH“. I don’t like that idea, because that’s not taking the patient into consideration, it’s taking your financial status, not the patient.
We should remember that patients with this disease have a very important role. It’s their disease, their condition and we want them to be able to communicate freely with their Physicians and have support for themselves, for them and their families in terms of dealing with the disease and dealing with other people and families that deal with the disease so that they’re not alone. Because very sick patients can feel very alone.

To move forward, this is the opportunity, this World Symposium, this meeting, the planning, the writing is a way to share in that group that is moving forward.