Allergy-Immunology: a hidden gem in medicine and pathway towards addressing racial health disparities
Posted By: Margee Louisias on February 05, 2021 |
Our decisions to pursue Allergy-Immunology (A/I) came from different influences, however, they ultimately led us to this subspecialty due to the ways in which we could use A/I to tackle racial disparities. For Dr. Sanchez, his decision was strongly influenced by childhood experiences with asthma. As the son of Colombian immigrants growing up in Queens, NY, he frequented emergency rooms for asthma but never thought of this as a unique experience – in fact, relatives and classmates had a similar frequency of emergency department visits for uncontrolled asthma. Once he started studying social determinants of health at the Howard University College of Medicine, he realized his asthma was poorly controlled and likely influenced by detrimental effects of his environment. During residency, he noticed similar patterns amongst his inner-city Boston immigrant patients. For Dr. Louisias, she was born to Haitian immigrants and also grew up in Queens, NY where her passion for working in underserved communities came from family discussions of the dire conditions in Haiti. After a string of international research experiences, Dr. Louisias landed on A/I while in residency where she saw the impact of structural racism in how her allergy/asthma patients were managed differently according to medical insurance; the limited number of minority physicians entering A/I; and how one’s zip code was a determinant of health.
Presently, Dr. Sanchez is applying for A/I fellowship and hopes to gain expertise in severe asthma and other immunological diseases, as well as skills to tackle racial disparities. Dr. Louisias is currently an attending at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology since 2016. She conducts research in school-based asthma to reduce asthma disparities.
A/I is an excellent career choice if you are interested in caring for both children and adults, learning molecular mechanisms of disease, understanding the interplay between environmental factors and genetics/epigenetics and gaining research expertise. Importantly, in A/I, clinicians are intimately aware of how environmental racism unjustly manifests through increased allergen and pollutant exposure in communities of color. The intersection of science, patient care and advocacy make A/I an exciting field with a vast array of opportunities for motivated students.
The journey to become an A/I physician begins with the same path as any physician, where you would need to complete an undergraduate degree, the MCAT, all pre-medical courses and apply to medical school.
After medical school, one would complete a residency in Internal Medicine, Pediatrics or combined Internal Medicine/Pediatrics, then residents can apply for A/I fellowship such as at BWH, one of the nation’s top programs. Medical students and residents interested in exploring a career in A/I can apply for the Chrysalis Project to attend the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) Annual Meeting, an A/I conference that showcases cutting edge research. Participating in the Chrysalis Project program also allows prospective applicants to network with fellowship program directors and current fellows. In addition, the AAAAI offers free membership to medical students and residents. You can read more details at https://www.aaaai.org/about-aaaai/aaaai-me...
The A/I fellowship at BWH is committed to racial equity measures being implemented across the Mass General Brigham network and to building a pipeline to A/I. The department of Medicine has vowed to increase the percentage of Black/Latinx faculty, incorporate department wide anti-racism training, and highlight health equity as a core value in residency education as some of many initiatives to work towards eliminating structural racism in its healthcare delivery. We encourage all those interested in A/I to reach out to faculty to ask about research opportunities as these experiences can be formative and can help solidify your intent to pursue this wonderful career path. Dr. Louisias can be contacted particularly for opportunities at BWH.
For more information about Allergy-Immunology elective and/or research opportunities at the Brigham please contact:
Margee Louisias, MD, MPH
Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
David Alejandro Sanchez, MD
Clinical Fellow, Harvard Medical School
Internal Medicine Resident, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Brigham and Women’s Hospital Allergy-Immunology Fellowship
For more information about the Chrysalis Project, please contact:
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