How Joseph's memory lives on through research

Jan and Tony's son, Joseph Footitt, was a lecturer and BLF researcher, when he tragically died in 2012, aged 37. He felt research was the best way to help people living with a lung condition. Here, they tell his story.

Joseph Footitt

Joseph was a dedicated and caring doctor. He was passionate about the research he was doing into chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

From an early age, Joseph cared about helping other people. In his early teens he was already involved in charity. He did a 24-hour cycle ride to raise money for the air ambulance. He was always encouraging other people his age to try new things.

An inquiring mind

As a youngster, Joseph had an inquiring mind. His favourite word was 'why?'. But what shone through was always his concern for others. He was determined to use his huge supply of energy to best effect.

When he was 12, Joseph decided he wanted to be a doctor. In 1994, he started his training at Guy’s and St Thomas’ medical school. He excelled.

Specialising in lungs

After some experience across hospital disciplines, Joseph decided to focus on respiratory disease. He became a registrar while at St Thomas' hospital, before moving to Imperial College. There, he embarked on a PhD to study the effects of the cold virus on COPD.

Despite setbacks (which included having to recruit new volunteers at a late stage) his professor was impressed by how quickly Joseph worked. He successfully applied to be a lecturer at Imperial and St Mary’s Hospital.

Joseph was awarded his PhD at the Royal Albert Hall only 5 weeks before he was tragically killed in a road accident.

After his death, some of the volunteers who took part in his research project wrote tributes and made donations to his tribute fund.

Research gives the greatest benefit

Joseph thought research was the best way to help people living with a lung condition. He was passionate about his research into COPD and wanted to make more life-changing breakthroughs.

Papers and articles about his work have been published around the world.

Joseph was so passionate and committed. We wanted to raise funds so COPD research could carry on in his name. Last year, the first grant from Joseph’s tribute fund was awarded to a researcher at Birmingham University. The study is looking into how cells that line blood vessels in the lung contribute to COPD.

Joseph was always keen to inspire his younger colleagues. His professor commented at his funeral that he was a talented teacher. He said:

“Joseph’s loss is a great loss to the future of respiratory medicine, respiratory research and respiratory education.”

His work was not in vain

Words can’t describe the impact of losing Joseph. The pain of his loss is always with us. But we’re so proud of what he achieved in his short life.

We take some comfort in the knowledge that his work was not in vain and that research is continuing in his name. It’s good to know that the money we raise for research will help people living with COPD lead better lives in the future.


Research into lung disease is underfunded. But we can change that. If you’re inspired by Joseph’s story, support the next generation of researchers by donating today.

Donate now


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6 June 2017