5.4 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma (Asthma UK) and yet up to 1-in-3 of these could be misdiagnosed, whilst underdiagnoses can vary from between 19% and 79% (Breathe, 2019) Professor John Dickinson from the School of Sports and Exercise Sciences is on a mission to change that through his work at the University of Kent’s Respiratory Clinic.
How and why did you become an academic?
Prior to becoming an academic I worked for the British Olympic Association (aka Team GB) and the English Institute of Sport directly supporting athletes to manage breathing problems. Although the direct work with athletes was incredibly rewarding there was little time to run research projects to better understand respiratory problems the athletes were presenting with. Since making the move into academia I have been able to balance directly supporting athletes to overcome breathing problems with running research projects that have helped to further our understanding of breathing problems and develop new solutions to help athletes optimise their respiratory health.
What is it about this area of work that you are passionate about?
Individuals with a disordered breathing pattern can take up to 7 years to get a correct diagnosis and 33% of asthma diagnosis has been shown to be incorrect. As an expert in exercise-related respiratory problems -including asthma, exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, and disordered breathing problems- I am passionate about improving their diagnosis and management across the general public through to elite athletes.
How has your research benefited business and industry so far?
So far, my work has led to improvements in how athletes are managed when they report respiratory symptoms. This has included the development of a systematic respiratory assessment to better diagnose an athlete’s respiratory problem. I have also been able to enhance the understanding of practitioners working with people who report exercise respiratory problems. This work has helped organisations better support individuals with breathing problems, enhance individuals’ exercise enjoyment and performance and has led to the development of new projects to refine and develop technology.
Is there a particular project which you are particularly proud of?
A recent project I am proud of is the groundbreaking work we have done to demonstrate what an optimum breathing pattern is and how we can use measurement of breathing pattern to detect asthma, exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, and disordered breathing patterns. This work is the first to demonstrate this and has launched an exciting stream of future research and development of new technologies to make the assessment of breathing pattern more accessible. We can also use this technology to provide real time feedback to the client to help them better understand how to optimise their breathing pattern at rest and during exercise.
Why is it important to you to work with external partners, and what do you believe you can offer them?
External partners are extremely important to the work we do. We have worked with several companies to understand how their existing products may be most beneficial to individuals with exercise respiratory problems. We have also worked with external companies to develop new technology to make tests that are only accessible in laboratories more accessible to practitioners and clients.
How can we get in touch with you?
You can get in touch with the Respiratory Clinic at email@example.com for more information about our services. If you would like to discuss opportunities to collaborate with me or the Clinic, contact the University of Kent’s business and innovation gateway team at firstname.lastname@example.org.