Three generations of allergists

October 2, 2017

As the College celebrates its 75th anniversary, we want to celebrate the people who helped shape the organization. In examining some of those who were “first generation allergists,” it became clear they influenced the allergists who followed. Several were even in their own families.

The Greens have three allergists in the family – so far. Mayer A. Green, MD, FACAAI, began practicing medicine in 1933 and focused solely on allergy starting in 1939. He was president of the College in 1962-63, and served on the editorial board of Annals of Allergy. In 1974, he became the first physician to be certified as an allergist by exam through the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.

Richard Green with father Mayer Green

According to Mayer Green’s son, Richard Green, MD, FACAAI, Mayer Green’s decision to go into the field was influenced by his ulcerative colitis. “My dad needed relative calm to keep his condition under control,” says Dr. Richard Green. “He spent some time working at Mt. Sinai in New York, and while he was there, considered becoming a radiologist. Then he heard about a new emerging field and decided he wanted to become an allergist. His physician friends told him he’d be committing professional suicide because no one knew what an allergist was, but he was influenced by pioneers in the field – Drs. Bela Schick and Robert Cooke. He ‘hung out a shingle’ in Pittsburgh, and that’s where he stayed for his career.”

Dr. Richard Green was next in the family to enter the field of allergy. (Is it possible it’s just a remarkable coincidence that Dr. Richard Green was born the same year the College came into being?) “I looked up to my father and admired him greatly,” says Dr. Richard Green. “I always knew I wanted to go to medical school and become an allergist. I went to a lot of College meetings as a kid, and met my father’s allergist friends. He was friends with many who were at the forefront of the specialty, including John McGovern, MD, FACAAI. I used to hear about what was going on in the field, and it all sounded really exciting to me. When I was in high school, I worked in my dad’s office on Saturdays, washing and sterilizing syringes. I also worked at the front desk, and occasionally mixed agents for immunotherapy shots. It was a great start to my career. After I went to medical school and worked in a few other areas of the country, I moved back to Pittsburgh and joined my father’s practice.”  

Todd Green with grandfather Mayer Green

Dr. Richard Green says his son Todd was not initially enthusiastic about joining the family trade. He says he tried not to influence Todd’s career choices. “He didn’t want to become an allergist just because his father and grandfather chose those careers. Todd went to Yale, was very interested in English literature, and became an English teacher. Gradually, he decided medicine might be in his blood. I think it would have made my father extremely proud to know that Todd became an allergist. He was alive when Todd was accepted to medical school, but died just before Todd completed medical school or decided on a specialty.” Todd Green, MD, ACAAI member, has focused much of his allergy career on food allergy research.

“is there a doctor in the house?” doesn’t begin to describe the Green family. Three generations of allergists, each taking their own path to the field of allergy, and each contributing in their own way to helping their patients conquer their allergy and asthma symptoms. Members such as the Greens enrich the College’s history.