UCL Global


Global Engagement Funds Case Study: Latin America

Dr John Hurst partnered with Johns Hopkins University and travelled to Peru to research chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

John Hurst

8 February 2018

Dr John Hurst

Reader in Respiratory Medicine, UCL Division of Medicine

“My research focuses on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, a globally-relevant long-term lung condition that will be the third commonest cause of death by 2020.

My experience was limited to the UK until I recently developed a partnership with Johns Hopkins University that saw us successfully short-listed for the Medical Research Council (MRC) Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases grant call.

We wanted to focus on low and middle income countries of Peru, Nepal and Uganda. When I applied for the Global Engagement Funds we didn’t know what the outcome of our bid would be.

Dr John Hurst in Peru

I used the funds to visit Peru with my John Hopkins collaborator and meet with colleagues for the first time at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia and non-government organisation AB Prisma, at the field sites where we wanted our research to take place.

Most COPD in Peru is not due to cigarette smoke as it is in the UK, but to burning biomass on poorly ventilated stoves. One lady I met in a rural setting outside of Puno spent over six hours a day in her kitchen, which was filled with soot and smoke. 40% of the world cook in confined spaces in this way.

Dr John Hurst's COPD project in Peru

At altitude in Peru, my blood oxygen level was 90% - if it was that low in London I would be recommended oxygen treatment. So living with COPD in Peru at altitude is doubly tough.

We were awarded £1.2m for a 3-year MRC project, which we are starting now. Being able to develop personal links with global collaborators beforehand facilitated the set-up of the research, meaning we can now get off to a flying start.

UCL is a global university and through collaboration and sharing our expertise we can change the world.”