Incoming AAAAI president spotlights meeting highlights, term priorities

February 21, 2022

5 min read


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David A. Khan, MD, FAAAAI, of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, will be installed as president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology during its annual meeting Feb. 25 to 28 in Phoenix.

According to Khan, this year’s conference will unveil innovative research and kick off new programs and opportunities for AAAAI and its membership.

What’s going on in Phoenix

The meeting will commence under the theme “Difficult to Control Asthma,” which will be the subject of 20% of the more than 225 sessions scheduled.

“That’s an important topic because it’s an area that really has seen an explosion of different therapeutics to manage these very challenging patients,” Khan told Healio.

David A. Khan

“It’s great that now we have more treatment options for these patients, but education is an area of high need,” he continued. “We assessed that our members are really interested in learning more about this topic, and we’re excited to provide information.”

COVID-19, which continues to dominate headlines, is another hot topic based on the multiple abstracts and original studies that will be presented.

“As allergists, one of the things we’ve been faced with and dealing with is patients who have had immediate reactions to COVID-19 vaccinations and trying to figure out how we can get them safely and fully vaccinated,” Khan said. “That’s a great area of interest.”

AAAAI is also looking ahead, as Khan noted a session on “Preparing for the Next Pandemic: From Mechanisms to Vaccines,” which will highlight vaccine development, lessons learned, immunologic strategies and more.

Of course, there will be sessions on other areas of clinical care across a dozen tracks, including allergens, allergy testing and therapeutics, immune mechanisms, mast cell and eosinophilic disorders, and rhinosinusitis and ocular allergy.

“We’re having a session on the mechanisms of and approaches to anaphylaxis, which I think will be interesting,” Khan said. “We have another session titled ‘An Ounce of Prevention’ to discuss not only some long-term results but also some more recent studies on how to prevent the development of food allergies.”

Outside the clinical classes, keynote speaker Hannah Valentine, MD, will discuss “The Importance of Diversity in Academia and Team Performance.” Valentine, who was the inaugural NIH chief officer for scientific workforce diversity before retiring, will explore strategies for achieving a culture of inclusive excellence.

“That’s a very important topic in everything in health care,” Khan said.

Other professional issues will be the focus of tracks dedicated to allergy office practices, research principles and training and career development. Plus, networking events and lounges will be available to foster future opportunities.

Qualifying medical students and residents in internal medicine and pediatrics will be at the meeting as well through AAAAI’s Chrysalis Project, which enables these aspiring physicians to attend free of charge.

Participants are paired with an allergy fellow during the event and learn about the pathogenesis and treatment of allergic and immunologic disorders as well as cutting-edge research, in addition to career options in academics, private practice and industry.

“This has been another successful ongoing project to enhance recruitment in our specialty,” Khan said.

Priorities for his term

Beyond the conference, Khan said he wants to tackle the problem of prior authorization for medications such as biologics as the first of three priorities for his term as president.

“It continues to be a large burden not only for patients but for staff, offices and physicians as well,” he said. “Surveys have shown that it actually contributes to burnout. So, we’re looking at things that we can do to try and address it from a specialty perspective.”

Khan plans on developing a task force to examine the problem and include the issue in AAAAI’s virtual advocacy outreach to Congress.

“Patients who have congenital diseases require these potentially lifesaving therapies, and every year you have to prove that they still have this condition that’s not going to go away spontaneously,” he said. “This is an area of huge frustration and delays in care that really impact our patients.”

Next, Khan wants to launch a national program that would expose residents in internal medicine and pediatrics to the specialty to get them excited about potential careers in allergy and immunology and to let them know what allergists and immunologists do. Diversity would be another one of the program’s goals.

“The program we have been doing in Texas covers the gamut of different allergy and immunology topics,” Khan said. “We’ve had a lot of great feedback, and we’re hoping to roll out a very similar program in different areas of the country.”

Third, Khan said he wants to create a drug allergy research grant that would help junior investigators get off to a good start in their careers because the funding in these areas is somewhat limited.

“The hottest topic has been dealing with penicillin allergy, and that’s because it’s the most common antibiotic that people believe they’re allergic to,” he said, adding that 90% to 95% of people who report a penicillin allergy actually can tolerate penicillin.

“Carrying around this label has a lot of adverse health outcomes. If it’s a false label, it should be removed,” he said. “But the grant won’t necessarily be specifically for penicillin allergy.”

Additional AAAAI initiatives

AAAAI also has been busy outside of the meeting, Khan said, as it launched its third journal this month. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: Global is the first gold open access publication in the organization’s portfolio, including submissions from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North and South America.

“We’re excited that the inaugural issue is out,” Khan said.

Khan also cited the extensive recent work of AAAAI’s Vaccines and Medications in Pregnancy Surveillance System (VAMPSS).

“The program was started because of pregnant moms being worried about the impact that asthma medications would have on them while they’re pregnant, which could lead to obviously dangerous consequences for both mom and the baby,” Khan said.

VAMPSS invites pregnant women to participate in interviews and provide data on birth outcomes, which Kn called helpful in learning about the safety of different medications and vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines.

“We’re seeing a lot of tragic losses of pregnant moms and babies who died of COVID-19 because of vaccine hesitancy,” he said. “So, I think there’s a lot of important work here.”

AAAAI also has joined the American Medical Association’s Scope of Practice Partnership, which aims to prevent the expansion into specialists’ scopes of practice and ensure patient safety. AAAAI is including its concerns about scope of practice in its virtual advocacy outreach to Congress as well.

“Another thing is serving patients in underserved communities,” Khan continued, as the AAAAI plans meetings between its leadership and patient advocacy organizations.

“We’re going to focus on how we can work effectively to address the needs of our allergy and immunology patients in these underserved communities,” he said. “Many of us in the academy want to assist our members in helping their patients.”

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