2019 Breathing for Life Award to Honor Foundation Champion and Benefactor

Sharon I. S. Rounds, MD, a former ATS president and an Edward Livingston Trudeau Medalist, will also be recognized for her work as an educator, mentor, clinician, and researcher

Sharon I. S. Rounds, MD, will receive the 2019 Breathing for Life Award—the highest honor given to an ATS member for philanthropy—during  the  Eleventh Annual ATS Foundation Research Program Benefit on Saturday, May 18, which will follow the Opening Ceremony at ATS 2019, Dallas, Texas.

As ATS president in 2004-05, Dr. Rounds championed the formation of the ATS Foundation. Since then, the Foundation has given donors the confidence that one hundred percent of all donations for research support the ATS Foundation Research Program. In addition to being one of the most generous supporters of the Foundation, she served on the Foundation’s board from 2012 until 2018.

A distinguished researcher on the pulmonary circulation, Dr. Rounds has supported the Foundation’s efforts to advance the careers of promising young investigators in other ways. She chaired the ATS committee that selects grant recipients. Then, she told an interviewer, “We could double the number of grant recipients and not lose one iota of the quality of the research we fund.”

At Brown University, Dr. Rounds is a professor of medicine and of pathology and laboratory medicine and associate dean for clinical affairs. From 2006-2015, she was chief of the medical service at the Providence VA Medical Center. As an educator, she has been recognized more than a dozen times for her excellence in teaching and mentorship, including receiving the Elizabeth A. Rich, MD, Award from the ATS. As a clinician, she has been listed in Best Doctors in America for 25 years.

Throughout her career, she has pressed for more opportunities for women and minorities in the fields of pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine, both at Brown and the ATS. Along with Alvin Thomas, MD, and Estelle Gauda, MD, she created the ATS Minority Trainee Development Scholarships program two  decades ago. At Brown, for many years she was the principal investigator of an NIH-funded program to increase diversity in health-related research.

“This is the history of the United States of America: we’re only as good as our diversity,” she says.  “It makes us better health care professionals, and it makes our research more relevant to the needs of the community.”

Qing Lu, DVM, PhD, began working with Dr. Rounds as a post-doc 16 years ago and is now associate professor at Brown funded by a National Institutes of Health RO1 Grant. “Sharon wants other people to be successful,” says Dr. Lu, DVM, PhD, a past recipient of an ATS Foundation Research Program grant. “Without her support and confidence in me, I wouldn’t be in academic medicine today.”

Elizabeth Harrington, PhD, considers Dr. Rounds a pioneer. Sharon was among the few women “to do many things during her career in a very male dominated field,” says Dr. Harrington, who is co-director with Dr. Rounds of the CardioPulmonary Vascular Biology Center for Biomedical Research Excellence, an NIH-funded effort to build vascular biology expertise in Rhode Island. “She is an excellent researcher and selfless mentor whose successes are an inspiration to many others following in her footsteps.”

At a time of life when many consider retiring, Dr. Rounds remains active as a mentor, researcher, and clinician. She also remains active in the ATS.

Her long involvement with the ATS has its origins in her first presentation  at the International Conference, given “on the afternoon of the last day,” when her mentor, the legendary head of Denver’s pulmonary and critical care program, Tom Petty, took a seat in the middle of the front row right before she began to talk. “It was a life-changing experience,” she recalls.

One might think that her many committee assignments and leadership roles within ATS are a way of paying the Society back for helping to launch her career. But Dr. Rounds, characteristically, offers a humbler explanation.

“I view my time contribution to ATS, not as work, but as fun,” she says. “The ATS is interesting and engaging and keeps my mind off things that I might find boring.”