Alumni Spotlight

World Lung Foundation: From Politics Class to International Organization

  World Lung Foundation

The story of World Lung Foundation is the story of a group of determined and idealistic young men who did not believe in leaving their knowledge in the classroom. Three men who have been friends since the day they first met in the fall of 1984 as students at Pace University came together in the summer of 2004 to establish World Lung Foundation, an organization with the ambitious goal of improving lung health globally.

It All Started in Dr. Quest’s Class
It was while working on a class project for Political Science Professor Linda Quest, PhD’s 21st Century Politics that Peter Baldini, Dyson ’87, José Luis Castro ’88, and Andrew Rendeiro, Dyson ’87, were first exposed to the international political issues that would face the world in the future—a future which is our present. These three young men were as fascinated by what they learned about the realities of international politics as they were disturbed by the economic, social, and security challenges affecting countries. Their curiosity to learn about what happens in the corridors of power led them to join Pace’s United Nations team and participate in national competitions. Participation in the team required rigorous research about countries, political issues, debate, and organizational skills.

After their graduation from college, each went on to different professions but remained connected through the United Nations team. As their professional careers advanced, the three wanted to do something to help alleviate suffering in the world.

Every year 10 million people die prematurely because of lung disease. Baldini, Castro, and Rendeiro, the founders of World Lung Foundation, believed that research, education, advocacy, and effective cooperation among international organizations can—and will—reduce these unnecessary deaths. Keenly aware that for the first time ever, the world’s leading cause of death was a man-made substance—tobacco, they decided to focus the work of World Lung Foundation on combating the tobacco epidemic worldwide. The second edition of The Tobacco Atlas, published by the American Cancer Society, has shown that if current trends continue, tobacco will kill 1 billion people prematurely during this century. Tobacco, which kills at least one third of the people who use it, is also the largest single cause of health inequalities in some low-income populations. Millions of deaths could be prevented if we took urgent action.

From Humble Beginnings to Some Big Name Supporters
In 2006, World Lung Foundation was selected to be one of five partners in an historic global initiative financed by Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City. This development catapulted World Lung Foundation to a leading role in global tobacco control efforts. Mayor Bloomberg donated $150 million and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $22 million to World Lung Foundation for global tobacco control efforts aimed at preventing the premature deaths of 100 million people from tobacco. These two giants then committed $500 million to global tobacco control in 2008.

“From its humble origins, World Lung Foundation has been very fortunate to have a very able group of men and women who effectively framed the purpose of the organization, provided clear direction, and established links to important sources of financing,” said Mr. Castro.

  Tobacco Atlas

Today, World Lung Foundation affects the lives and well being of hundreds of millions of people around the globe and is the co-publisher of The Tobacco Atlas, the very same book that inspired its founders to take action. With an introduction by Mr. Baldini and John Seffrin, president of the American Cancer Society, The Tobacco Atlas vividly displays the global scale of the tobacco epidemic. Full-color maps and graphics clearly illustrate the myriad of tobacco issues, revealing similarities and differences between countries, and exposing the behavior of the tobacco industry. It also examines solutions and predicts the future course of the epidemic should governments and civil society fail to act. The book is authored by Dr. Omar Shafey, Dr. Michael Eriksen, Dr. Hana Ross and Dr. Judith Mackay.

The Tobacco Atlas, Third Edition, published by the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation, was unveiled at the LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Summit August 25, 2009 in Dublin. World Lung Foundation is headquartered in New York City, with staff and consultants based around the world. The foundation currently has a team of almost 30 and a $49.7 million annual program budget. For more information, visit