An update on the recent Training Program Directors’ Meeting

| | January 23, 2023

An update on the recent Training Program Directors’ Meeting

I recently had the privilege of attending and presenting at the ACAAI/AAAAI Training Program Directors’ (TPD) Meeting for U.S. allergy-immunology fellowships. College presidents have been a part of this joint meeting for many years, and it’s something we look forward to for a variety of reasons.

Our fellowship training programs guide the future of our specialty, and this annual meeting is an important way our organizations collaborate and support the professional development of our program leadership. This meeting is also an opportunity to take the pulse of training programs around the country, so we can understand the needs of TPDs and Fellows-in-Training (FITs) and continue to serve them well.

I focused my presentation on resources the College offers to FITs, and there are many. I was extremely pleased that TPDs rated our educational content, scholarship programs, and board review resources as “high-level” in feedback heard at the meeting. Specifically, they referenced the College’s AIM self-assessment (with recently reduced fees for FITs), Board Review Book, and Annual Meeting sessions such as the dermatology Jeopardy session and COLA lecture series. It is in our specialty’s and our patients’ best interest to nurture these trainees and our early career professionals, and it was gratifying to hear the College’s resources rated highly. My sincere thanks to the College’s Program Directors (GME) Committee members for their significant commitments to AIM, the Board Review Book, and especially the SPARK program!

Another valued resource – and one TPDs asked about specifically – is help for FITs navigating the contract process for employment after fellowship. I was pleased to reference our College collaboration with Resolve, a contract review company that specializes in physician employment contracts (and we’ll soon be presenting a free webinar on contracting that you won’t want to miss). College members, including FITs, get a discount on Resolve’s expert services. (A wealth of career-related resources also can be found in the FIT and New Allergist Toolkit.)

The College is the first professional organization in allergy to have a community grants program specifically focused on health equity, another important program which was highlighted. This grants program through The Allergists’ Foundation awards funding for projects that address barriers to asthma and allergy care. Applications for grants are being accepted until Feb. 15.

In addition to addressing the needs of FITs, we also want to draw diverse people to the allergy-immunology specialty. Our successful SPARK Award program was established to “spark” an interest in our specialty; this program offers scholarships for residents and selected medical students to attend the College’s Annual Scientific Meeting, with an emphasis on attracting more people of color to the specialty. In 2022 there were 20 Spark Award recipients. As an example, one of this year’s student-recipients from Howard University is now planning a research year and possible career in allergy-immunology, after attending our annual meeting in Louisville!

I was excited to introduce a novel and exciting presidential initiative which will span two presidencies, mine and Dr. Gailen Marshall’s – the Community Allergist Partnership in Education (CAPE). This year, the program will lay the groundwork for interested community allergists to create medical educational opportunities in their own practices for students, residents and fellows, in collaboration with academic medical centers. The second year will focus on collaboration among community and academic allergists for scholarly activity and research. The TPDs with whom I spoke were enthusiastic about the possibilities! More details about CAPE will follow in the coming weeks and months.

FITs are the future of our specialty, and they have unique needs. We in the College are committed to understanding these needs, with ongoing and direct FIT input at the leadership level. FITs are elected annually from the FIT section to serve on our Board of Regents, and the senior FIT Representative is a voting member. The ACAAI FIT Committee has dedicated regional representatives across the country to bring issues to our immediate attention.

The current offerings we have for FITs are exceptional – whether they are focused on certifying board exam preparation, education tailored to specific career stages, community grant opportunities, or scholarships to attend the ACAAI Annual Scientific Meeting. And I’m excited about new opportunities we can bring to FITs and early-career allergists, to assist in their bright futures in our specialty and the College.

Kathleen R. May, MD, FACAAI
ACAAI president