Saint Francis Foundation

Gawlicki Family Foundation Grants $156,103 for COPD Program

Saint Francis Hospital has received a $156,103 three-year grant from the Gawlicki Family Foundation to evaluate a home-based, virtual pulmonary rehabilitation program for at-risk patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“We are truly grateful to the Gawlicki family for their continued support of our programs that will help pulmonary patients at all of our Trinity Health Of New England hospital on their journey to wellness,” said Lynn B. Rossini, Regional Vice President of Philanthropy, Trinity Health Of New England.

With the grant, Saint Francis Hospital and program director, Richard L. ZuWallack, M.D., will evaluate a virtual program for pulmonary rehabilitation in the home for discharged COPD patients. Established pulmonary rehabilitation programs throughout the Northeast will participate in the study. The evaluation will determine if an Internet-based adjunct program might enhance standard outcomes, including quality of life and exercise capacity.

“This grant will help us identify the most effective interventions to improve the health of our at-risk patients,” said Daniel A. Gerardi, M.D. “Our goal is to help them on the path toward better health from the comfort and ease of their own homes. A home-program is just one component of a modified, comprehensive COPD management program focusing on the integrated care of our patients.”

Traditional, outpatient center-based pulmonary rehabilitation – like the one at Saint Francis Hospital - results in substantial improvements for patients across multiple outcome areas including improvements in breathlessness, exercise capacity, functional status, self-efficacy, quality of life, and health care utilization. Despite these documented, positive outcomes, it is often difficult to get discharged COPD patients to attend regular outpatient-based rehab sessions. Telemedicine is an emerging tool to enhance and extend traditional medical services to patients with chronic respiratory diseases. The rigorous evaluation will determine if an internet-based rehabilitation program adds benefits over and above traditional pulmonary rehabilitation. If found effective, the intervention could significantly improve the quality of life for thousands of COPD patients.

The Outpatient Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at Saint Francis Hospital is designed to achieve a maximum level of functional independence. The program combines education, exercise and individual therapy. The Pulmonary Rehabilitation Team includes a medical specialist in pulmonary diseases, pulmonary nurse, respiratory therapist, physical therapist, nutritionist, pharmacist, and, most importantly, the patient and his or her family. An exercise physiologist provides input on exercise prescriptions.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is a chronic lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. The disease is increasingly common, affecting millions of Americans, and is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Lung Association. The good news is COPD is often preventable and treatable. 

The main cause of COPD is smoking, but nonsmokers can get COPD too.

Many people don't recognize the symptoms of COPD until later stages of the disease. Sometimes people think they are short of breath or less able to go about their normal activities because they are "just getting older." But shortness of breath is never normal.  If you experience any of these symptoms, or think you might be at risk for COPD, it is important to discuss this with your doctor.

  • Chronic cough
  • Shortness of breath while doing everyday activities (dyspnea)
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds (cyanosis)
  • Fatigue
  • Producing a lot of mucus (also called phlegm or sputum)
  • Wheezing