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Taking the Bull by the Horns

Kim Bennion, MHS, RRT, CHC, was drawn to the respiratory care profession by a mother who was always ill as she was growing up. “My mother was a former smoker,” says the corporate respiratory care quality assurance program manager at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, UT. “She was diagnosed with bronchiectasis at about age 45 and then COPD at age 48. I always wanted to know what I could do to help her, and a professional career in respiratory care just felt like the way to do that.”

Those early personal experiences with lung disease, coupled with her organization’s goal to provide cost effective, evidence-based best practices, fueled an interest in research and Bennion has been following that interest for a number of years now. “I chose a great mentor and began with simple abstracts, from best practices in bronchiolitis to a prospective research study for COPD patients that we are currently planning.”

But she never thought about applying for one of the Foundation awards — and actually, she didn’t apply for the Charles W. Serby COPD Research Fellowship she received at AARC Congress 2014 in Las Vegas. Her work was thrown into the hat by a colleague and she is grateful for the nomination. “As respiratory therapists, we’re often just overlooked in terms of research grants and funding,” says Bennion. “I have used the funds I received to help pay for some out-of-pocket expenses I have incurred in providing community education regarding seniors and COPD.”

Ask Bennion to sum up her philosophy about respiratory research and she puts it this way: “I don’t think anyone walks into a patient’s room without wanting to deliver care that will cure or alleviate symptoms. Sometimes, however, the evidence just doesn’t tell us definitively what works and what doesn’t.”

Rather than stand by and wait for someone else to do the research that will answer those pressing questions, she believes RTs should be leading the way. “I believe we have to take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and lead key research studies.

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