PRMRP Consumer Peer Reviewer
Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation
Sam Kirton is not a quitter. He served in the U.S. Air Force for 22 years and then continued working as a federal contractor for another 20 years. When he stopped working in 2017, it was not a chosen retirement, but a result of advancing idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) only 8 months after his initial diagnosis. IPF is a serious disease in which lung tissue stiffens and scars, without a known cause or precipitating event, preventing the lungs from expanding and making it harder to breathe. Instead of work, Sam then devoted his attention and energy to advocacy and awareness activities as part of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. Sam became an ambassador for the organization, and thus a face for the IPF community. He speaks with support groups, researchers, healthcare professionals, and legislators about how IPF has affected his life and the lives of others who may not be able to speak for themselves. His passion and eloquence led him to be nominated by the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation as a peer reviewer for the Department of Defense Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP).
For the Fiscal Year 2020 and 2021 PRMRP, Sam worked alongside research scientists, clinicians, and Service Members to evaluate research projects. He provided his lived experiences and unique perspectives to help identify the most promising and impactful research projects. During the process, Sam learned more about his own disease as well as the investigators dedicated to studying IPF. He found himself, in his own words, “in awe of how many brilliant minds come together in the program.” The combined commitments of the investigators and reviewers left him confident in the future of IPF research and patient care. “One day,” he says, “a future generation will not have to know pulmonary fibrosis.” He also participated in a yearlong clinical trial for a new IPF treatment. This trial was ultimately closed, as the treatment showed no benefit. However, Sam does not see that year as wasted. He sees it as a year invested in exploring the efficacy of the treatment; an investment not only for himself, but for the next generation.
Sam’s disease continued to worsen during his time with the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. He managed his IPF with supplemental oxygen treatment and was approved for a lung transplant in 2019. Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sam and his care team decided to defer his transplant as long as possible, increasing his supplemental oxygen treatment up to 24 hours per day. Finally, on July 9, 2021, Sam was notified that he would be receiving a double lung transplant, and underwent surgery the next day. Following his mantra, “Make Every Breath Count,” Sam continues his advocacy work with the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, including their National Walk Day fundraiser. He also supports the National Ataxia Foundation and encourages all patients and patient advocates to continue to participate in research opportunities and make their voices heard.
When he’s not participating in PRMRP peer review, broadcasting amateur radio, or riding his motorcycle, Sam documents his IPF journey and shares his experiences in a news column on the Pulmonary Fibrosis News website, Make Every Breath Count: https://pulmonaryfibrosisnews.com/category/columns/make-every-breath-count-a-column-by-samuel-kirton/.
Last updated Thursday, May 26, 2022