Dr. Jeffrey Sager is the director of the Pulmonary Hypertension Care Center (PHCC) at Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital & Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, Calif. He also serves on the Pulmonary Hypertension Association’s (PHA’s) Scientific Leadership Council. In this story, he discusses his work with pulmonary hypertension (PH) and his connection to PHA.

What is your connection to PH?

My involvement in the field of pulmonary hypertension dates back to my fellowship years in pulmonary and critical care medicine. I was fortunate enough to take care of a patient with pulmonary hypertension, and in those early days there was only Flolan. Throughout her treatment, I grew close to her and her husband, and unfortunately watched her deteriorate in front of my eyes. I was promoted to associate director of the lung transplant program at the University of Pennsylvania and was able to shepherd her case to lung transplant. I watched the process unfold and realized that I wanted to be part of providing better care than what was available at that time. Unfortunately, she passed away after her transplant, and I made a commitment at that time that I was going to pursue a career in pulmonary vascular disease.

What are some of the different ways you are involved with PHA and the PH community?

I have a strong belief that it is important for pulmonary hypertension care providers around the country to have a basic uniform approach to care and to learn from each other. This motivated me to participate in the PHCC initiative (PHA’s accreditation program for clinics with expertise in PH). I served on a task force and also served as a member of the oversight committee for the development of the comprehensive care initiatives. I am currently the director of the Cottage PH Care Center. We are one of the first PHA accredited centers through the PHCC initiative. Our site was fortunate to be one of the pilot sites, and we have provided leadership and guidance to other programs developing PHCCs.

I also serve as a member of the Scientific Leadership Council (SLC) for PHA, which sets the direction for how PHA makes medical care recommendations for the entire country. I am involved in multiple clinical research projects in pulmonary vascular disease. Some of these are pharmaceutical-sponsored clinical trials, allowing patients access to therapies that have never been tested before and that will hopefully provide a cure for pulmonary hypertension in the future.

Why did you and your wife start giving to PHA monthly?

Dana and I believe in the mission of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association and feel that supporting PHA by both active participation and financial means allows us to help other people and make a difference in their lives. We have supported a monthly contribution to PHA for the past nine years, and it is a priority for us.

Tzedakah (charity) is so hardwired into the Jewish faith that the Talmud says: “Charity is equal in importance to all other commandments combined.” Judaism requires that, if possible, we should give whenever we see someone in need. Giving to PHA and making that commitment on a monthly basis demonstrates one’s belief in helping others without any expectation of anything in return. I could think of no better organization than PHA, who helps thousands of patients suffering from this debilitating disease.

Dr. Jeffrey Sager with his wife, Dana.