Meet The Union Board: Prof Guy Marks, Vice President

Meet The Union Board: Prof Guy Marks, Vice President

“Chronic lung disease disproportionately affects the poor – redressing this health injustice is a priority for The Union.”
– Prof Guy Marks, Vice President, The Union

As part of our Meet the Board series, in which we interview members of The Union’s Board of Directors, we talk to the Vice President, Prof Guy Marks of Australia.

As well as serving The Union as Vice President, a position to which Guy was elected in November 2014, he is also Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of New South Wales and Honorary Professor of Medicine at the University of Sydney.  He jokes that the fundamental difference between the two posts is that one is salaried – and one is not!

He combines this with being an Editor in Chief (Lung Diseases) of the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IJTLD), The Union’s most widely known and read scientific communication.  As Editor in Chief, he works with a team that includes the Journal’s editorial staff in Paris, two other Editors-in-Chief (Tuberculosis), over 80 Associate Editors and hundreds of reviewers worldwide to select the papers that are published each month and to solicit editorials and other content for the Journal.

But the major focus of his research interest – and his life’s work – is lung disease, specifically airways disease, air pollution and tuberculosis.  He regards the increase of chronic lung disease – especially within vulnerable communities - as one of the major health challenges of our time, but notes that it often loses out to headlines around other diseases and epidemics.

“The Union is the only organisation in the world that focuses on lung health in low- and middle-income countries.  We consistently call for the commitment of governments and other associations to reduce the burden of lung disease in communities which do not have the protections and laws in place and the services that we enjoy in more affluent societies.  This is a fundamental public health issue.”

Guy’s involvement with The Union began in the early nineties.  When he attended his first Union World Lung Conference in Paris, he discovered that the scientific aims and values of the organisation were entirely in step with his own. He has subsequently attended nearly every World Conference.

Guy quickly became involved in membership activities.  After joining as an individual member, he later became Chair of the Lung Health Section, championing the interests of all areas of lung health.  He is now a member of the Bureau, the Union’s senior governing body, currently as Vice President (he was previously Secretary-General). This sees him involved in the monthly affairs of The Union, working closely with (and deputising for) Dr E Jane Carter, The Union’s President.

“The best part of being a Bureau member is being able to contribute to the workings of an organisation that I greatly respect and admire. The most challenging part is trying to make a worthwhile contribution in a part-time, voluntary capacity.

“Another major challenge is trying to steer The Union in a way that will fully engage members. Member engagement in the activities of The Union is key to its ongoing success.”

Guy strongly believes that grass roots membership is the corner-stone of The Union. “The Union IS a member organisation.  It is what distinguishes it from other organisations working in similar fields.   The Union is also unique in its tripartite status – advocacy, scientific credentials, public health programming.  These three complementary roles confer upon it an authority—an active status—that is shared by no other organisation that I can think of.” 

He adds, “A major strength of The Union is that it includes within its membership, people and groups committed to and active within all three of these strands of activity – a combination that gives The Union its unique place in the scientific world.”

On taking the current temperature of where The Union is now and what the challenges of the future are, he is clear that tackling chronic lung disease is paramount.

“The recent focus on the importance of chronic lung disease as a high-burden disease in low- and middle-income countries – and ensuring people within these countries have access to treatment – is a critical issue now and going forward.  Chronic lung disease disproportionately affects the poor.  They are more likely to be exposed to the environmental causes of lung disease and they are less likely to have access to high quality and effective treatment for the condition.

“The Union needs to be at the forefront of global efforts to redress this health injustice.  We need to advocate for improved air quality, so that the poor are less at risk of lung disease, and we need to advocate for universal access to effective treatment for lung disease.  In my opinion, this is a top priority for The Union.”