October 2011

Beyond the Call of Duty

Beyond the 
Call of Duty - October 2011 - Connections - CF Foundation 
Dr. Marie Egan, winner of the
Connecticut Chapter’s 2011 Breath of
Life Award.

From black-tie galas to board meetings, Great Strides walks to bike rides, Dr. Marie Egan does all she can to fight cystic fibrosis. Her kindness and concern for her patients extend well beyond her duties as a physician and director of the CF center at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Egan’s outstanding efforts were recently recognized by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Connecticut Chapter, which awarded her the Foundation’s highest honor — the Breath of Life Award.

“Dr. Egan is known to her patients not only as a great doctor, but a hero, too,” said Preston W. Campbell, III, M.D., executive vice president for medical affairs at the CF Foundation. “We’re proud to have her on our team as a leader in the fight against cystic fibrosis.”

Balancing Act: Teacher, Clinician and Researcher

Dr. Egan’s commitment to finding a cure for CF began more than 20 years ago when she volunteered at a children’s hospital as an undergraduate. “I spent a lot of time doing play therapy with patients, and the children with CF really stood out to me.”

Working with CF patients during her pediatric residency at Johns Hopkins in the late ‘80s, she became curious about the scientific answers to the health problems experienced by people with CF.

A fellowship funded by the Foundation, which allowed Dr. Egan to study chloride channels in CF cells, was an important first step in her journey to understand the science behind cystic fibrosis. “As a medical doctor, I also wanted to do research that could help my patients,” she says. “The fellowship allowed me to hone my skills as a CF scientist and a clinician.”

Today, Dr. Egan is still searching for answers to the problems that underlie cystic fibrosis. In her lab at Yale, she conducts research geared toward understanding the basic defect in CF, and is most excited about what’s to come in CF treatments that target the defective protein that causes CF. “It will be wonderful to see how drugs that treat the basic defect in CF will impact people with this disease,” she says. “It’s an exciting time.”

Along with her duties in the lab and clinic, Dr. Egan teaches a physiology course to first-year medical students at Yale University where she is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and of Cellular and Molecular Physiology. Dr. Egan also serves as a mentor to several aspiring researchers and physicians interested in cystic fibrosis.

As director of sweat testing and newborn screening at the Yale CF Center, Dr. Egan interacts with many newly diagnosed patients and their families. When she began her career in CF care and research more than 20 years ago, the message she gave to families was very different. “Many children with CF weren’t expected to grow up and transition into healthy adults,” she says. "Now, we’re much more proactive with care, and we expect children with CF to live longer, healthier lives.” 

When asked what she’s most proud of in her career, her thoughts turn to all those she’s cared for over the years. “I am really proud and excited that the kids I’ve treated have grown up to be well-functioning adults who manage their own health,” says Dr. Egan.

Committed to the Cause

Dr. Egan’s impact on the CF community is felt beyond the halls of Yale University. She serves on the CF Foundation Connecticut Chapter’s board, and brings as many people as she can to Foundation events like Great Strides, CF Cycle for Life and the annual 65 Roses Summer Soiree. She admits her passion for fundraising gets the better of her at times: “I bid on every auction item I can at Foundation events to drive up prices,” she laughs. “Anything the Foundation needs from me, I’m happy to do.”

Dr. Egan hopes that all of her hard work in the research lab, at the CF care center and volunteering for the CF Foundation will pay off in the future. “I imagine that the progress being made today will continue at an accelerated pace, making CF an almost unrecognizable disease 10-15 years from now,” she says. “Ultimately, I hope for a cure.”

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