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The John Widdicombe Award
for Best Oral Abstract

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About John Widdicombe

Professor John Guy Widdicombe was a prominent respiratory physiologist with a career long interest in everything cough. He studied medicine at New College, Oxford, UK, and did his clinical training at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College, London, where he was later a Senior Lecturer and then First Professor and Chairman of the Department of Physiology. [1]

Widdicombe’s research career began in 1950 at the Nuffield Institute for Medical Research in Oxford where he discovered his lifelong interest in the physiology and pathophysiology of cough. In 2011, he recalled that when writing his doctorate thesis, there were only six references on cough sensory mechanisms. [2]  These first papers characterizing Aδ-myelinated fibres in the airways would launch his career. [3] He later served as Medical Research Council Scholar at the Nuffield Institute for Medical Research in Oxford.

Widdicombe’s extensive portfolio of work includes research on inhaled air pollutants and bronchoconstriction with Jay Nadel at the University of California. Their findings lead to the original California Air Pollution Regulations. [3] This work also contributed to the later discovery of anticholinergic therapy for bronchospasm in COPD. [3] His 60-year publishing career included a plethora of peer-reviewed papers, numerous chapter reviews, and the monograph Respiratory Physiology which he co-authored with Andrew Davies in 1984.4 Widdicombe was also bestowed with numerous awards, medals, and esteemed positions, but as his friends would likely tell you these are not his most cherished accomplishments, “…friendship, collaboration, endeavor and pushing back the frontiers of knowledge are.” [5]

After retirement, John continued to publish and stayed active in the scientific community.  He founded the first International Cough Symposium, held every 2 years in London. The Symposium, and John’s influence therein, lead to many collaborations and discoveries in the field of cough ranging from the concept of cough hypersensitivity syndrome to definitions of cough receptors and reflexes to assessment of aspiration risk after stroke. [3] The International Cough Symposium recognizes John’s many contributions through their biannual John Widdicombe lecture, given by a researcher with significant impact in the field of cough. [3]

The John Widdicombe Award for best oral abstract was created, to acknowledge the hard work and innovation of young scientists in the field of cough. This award is given every two years at the American Cough Conference, which he attended religiously, serving as both a panelist and moderator.


For more information on John Widdicombe please visit these links:

  1. Chung KF: Prof. John Guy Widdicombe, 1925–2011: an appreciation of an eminent respiratory physiologist. Eur Respir J 2011, 38:1243-1244.

  2. Miller J. Loss of a Legend. SRxA’s Word on Health. 2011. Available at:  Accessed June 21, 2021.

  3. Chung KF, Nadel JA, Fontana G. John Widdicombe’s contribution to respiratory physiology and cough: Reminiscences. Cough. 2013;9(1):6.

  4. John Guy Widdicombe 1925–2011. Physiology News. 2011, 85:54-55.

  5. Litsy BL. Professor John Widdicombe: a scientific appreciation. BMJ 2005; 106 (11); 337-338.

Past Winners

2023     Yueh-Yin Chen, University of Kentucky, USA

2021     Laurie Slovarp, University of Montana, USA

2019     Miranda Wright, University of Utah, USA

2017     Anne Vertigan, Hunter Medical Research Institute, Australia

2015     Helen Fowles, University of Hull, UK

2013     Rebecca Clarke, Queens University, Belfast


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