For more than 60 years the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology have occupied separate but overlapping niches in the service of our specialty. In recent decades both societies have worked hard at strategic planning, including periodically revising their mission statements. For example, as part of Vision 2020, the College mission specifies the promotion of “excellence in the practice” of the specialty while the Academy is committed to advancing “the knowledge and practice” of the specialty. The subtle but important differences in these mission statements are reflected in the activities of each organization, and in my opinion a healthy competition stemming from the awareness of each other’s activities has strengthened both the College and the Academy. For example, both societies have more than 5,000 members, enjoy highly successful Annual Scientific Meetings, and their success has continued in parallel despite challenges such as Managed Care, Pharma guidelines, NIH funding cuts, and the Affordable Care Act. This is good for our members and our patients.
Now before you label me the eternal Pollyanna, I acknowledge that the College and Academy have had their moments of conflict over the years – rumors of a merger, journal turf battles, and dissolution of the Joint Council, to name a few. However, as with most family conflicts, we get past our differences and still sit down together at important times. Now is such a time.
The proposed changes to USP 797 and the FDA’s recent guidance document on “Insanitary Conditions at Compounding Facilities” are potential crises for nearly all practicing allergists and many of our patients. In response to this, the College Advocacy Council, led by Allen Meadows, MD, FACAAI, and James Sublett MD, FACAAI, has brilliantly and efficiently digested the issues and identified potential actions that might positively influence the outcome. However, it soon became apparent to us – and I suspect to our friends at AAAAI – that coordinated messaging by the entire specialty has more clout than separate efforts from each organization. This has led to regular communication and increasing cooperation between the College and Academy on these issues, including our respective contributions at the upcoming USP Roundtable discussion, during which we will have an opportunity to meet face to face with USP representatives.
Realizing the value of streamlined communications between our organizations, in the past year the Leadership of the College and the Academy have begun monthly “Joint Leadership” teleconferences, and earlier this month we had a “Joint Leadership Retreat” in Atlanta. In addition to issues related to allergenic extract compounding, agenda topics for these meetings have included oversight of the Joint Task Force for Practice Parameters, the ACAAI/AAAAI Joint Board Review Course, and our collaboration on International Consensus Reports with the World Allergy Organization and European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Rest assured that during our joint leadership interactions the College Leadership stays true to the mission of the College, including implementation of Vision 2020. Issues for joint discussion are agreed upon in advance based on anticipated mutual benefit, and reflect a small proportion of overall effort by College staff and leadership. It has been my experience that the personal relationships fostered by these interactions has strengthened the trust between organizations while avoiding misunderstanding and miscommunication. It is my firm belief that regular communication between the leadership of the College and the Academy is both beneficial to our members and essential for the preservation of the specialty.
Stephen A. Tilles, MD, FACAAI