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June 2018

From the President

Dear Colleagues,

I am honored to begin my term as your 2017-2018 AAAAI President. Considering our organization is now comprised of over 7,000 members, I realize not everyone knows me personally.

I was born June 28, 1958, in Clinton, Indiana. My family moved to Modesto, California in 1962 and we lived there until we relocated to South Charleston, West Virginia in 1970. I attended West Virginia University from 1976 to 1987 where I earned my BA, MD and MS degrees. From there I headed to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to complete my allergy/immunology fellowship. Then it was on to the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, which has been my home since 1992. I am currently the Andrews Professor of Pediatrics, Senior Associate Dean for Translational Research, and Director of the Division of Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology and the Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma and Lung Biology.

The support of my family throughout my career has been tremendous. I met my wife Sandra Santucci, PhD, DNP, while at NIH and we were married in 1992. Sandra and I are very proud of our daughter Ariana who graduated from UNC-Asheville with a BA in 2015. Ariana is currently looking to attend law school to pursue her JD.

Now that you know more about my background, I want to share that my presidency will be devoted to addressing two key areas: (1) environmental and climate impacts on allergic and immunologic disease and (2) the future of allergy/immunology in the changing healthcare environment.

Environmental and Climate Impacts on Allergic and Immunologic Disease

Consider the following statistics:

  • According to the World Health Organization, up to 44% of the asthma burden worldwide is attributable to environmental factors.
  • Recent Environmental Protection Agency data reveals that in the United States, 119,401,000 people live in areas out of attainment for O3, and 23,223,000 people live in areas that are out of attainment for PM2.5.
  • More than 5.5 million people per year worldwide die prematurely as a result of air pollution.

This is a problem, especially when you consider that environmental factors have an impact on economic outcomes such as healthcare spending. I believe we are at our best when we are objective conveyors of the science, which is why the theme of next year’s meeting in Orlando—a Joint Congress with the World Allergy Organization (WAO)—will be global environmental change and respiratory health.

We have already secured Linda Birnbaum, PhD, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, as our Keynote speaker. While a variety of sessions will relate to the theme, I can share at this point that AAAAI and WAO will each program a plenary. Ours will focus on “Environmental Impacts on Asthma: Biology to Intervention,” while WAO will address “Asthma and Allergic Disorders in an Environment of Continuous Climate Change.”

Bearing in mind that the Joint Congress in Orlando will conclude my term as AAAAI President, activities throughout the coming year will also support this overall initiative. I am tasking the AAAAI to work with other organizations to highlight the human health impact of environmental pollution and climate change. In addition, we will work internally with the Environmental and Occupational Respiratory Diseases (EORD) Interest Section and Office of Medical Education Committee to develop environmental health educational resources for our members. By providing the appropriate resources and including environmental expertise in our scope of practice, the AAAAI and its members will be positioned at the forefront of this important issue. Finally, The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) and JACI: In Practice have each committed to publishing theme issues in early 2018 that will provide another source of cutting-edge research and science on the topic.

Future of Allergy and Immunology in the Changing Healthcare Environment

We cannot deny that our specialty faces certain challenges. Allergy/immunology is underrepresented in medical schools, few A/I physicians occupy national decision-making roles, not to mention the changes in healthcare reimbursement models, the regulatory and research environment, and diagnostic techniques and treatments for allergic diseases. Consider that 60% of practice revenue associated with skin testing and traditional immunotherapy may be at risk with advancements in serologic diagnosis of allergy, changes in immunotherapy and use of immunobiologicals.

This is our reality and we need to think strategically about how to position the specialty for future success, especially when you consider the areas where we can make an impact. These include food allergy diagnosis, prognosis and treatment, severe/difficult asthma and asthma as a public health issue, drug allergy/adverse drug reactions, dermal allergy, clinical immunology and auto-inflammatory disease, and novel immunotherapy, diagnostics, immunobiologicals and vaccines.

We cannot simply look inward and discuss amongst ourselves to determine what place allergy/immunology has in the changing healthcare environment. I intend to create an AAAAI Advisory Group that would provide advice and perspective on the role of A/I in national healthcare systems from decision makers who do not represent A/I, including healthcare system leaders, insurance and third party payers, policymakers and representatives from lay organizations. My vision is to bring various AAAAI stakeholders together with the AAAAI Advisory Group for a Future of Allergy and Immunology Summit, where a key set of questions would be answered to form the basis for a white paper. This white paper would then be used to guide a strategic planning process. There are many layers to unpack here and I look forward to discussing the Summit with you in future messages.

On that note, I am excited to get started and work together to ensure the future of our specialty.


David B. Peden, MD, MS, FAAAAI

AAAAI President

Last updated: April 10, 2017