The Allergists’ Foundation: Your gifts at work

| | January 22, 2024

The Allergists’ Foundation: Your gifts at work

It is a chilly (or just plain cold) winter most of us are experiencing in early 2024. Even with the cold and snow, the activities of the College in service to you — our members –and ultimately our patients, continue uninterrupted, made possible by many, many dedicated and hard-working people. In my College Insider columns this year, I want to show you as much of the inner workings of our organization as possible – to introduce people, highlight accomplishments, make needs known and offer as many opportunities for member participation and benefits as possible.

This month, we highlight the Allergists’ Foundation, a separate 501C3 organization of the College dedicated to fostering development of better allergists-immunologists through education and research by soliciting and disbursing funds obtained primarily through philanthropic giving.

Although the philanthropic arm of the College has been around for more than 20 years as the Foundation of ACAAI, the last two years have brought a reorganization to better and more actively support our members and our specialty. The Foundation has a new name, The Allergist’s Foundation, with a refined mission and programming that offer members a meaningful way to give back to the specialty.

The Foundation’s Community Grant Program, established in 2021, offers remarkable clinical research opportunities for allergists and immunologists, especially those who are in the early stages of their careers. The program not only provides seed money for practical, clinical research; it also impacts patients and communities directly. Many of the projects focus on research with rapid practical applications to close health equity gaps and better serve under-resourced communities. In addition, many of our grantees have started working with the College to develop new resources – adding new content to our clinical toolkits and developing educational modules. Some have also joined College committees, where they can contribute and share ideas based on what they learned from their projects.

We have awarded nearly $300,000 ($100,000 per year) in grant funds since 2021 to support 17 innovative projects under the Community Grant Program. Several of our 2021 and 2022 Community Grant recipients presented their abstracts at the College’s 2023 Annual Scientific Meeting in Anaheim. Their ePosters (and pre-recorded presentations) are available online and include projects led by Drs. Michael Pistiner (P183), Anil Nanda (P230), Marcella Aquino (P288), Lulu Tsao (P010), Jessica Macdougall (P195).  The Funding Opportunity Notice for 2024 Community Grants is now available on the member website. It includes a special call for applications for PID-related projects developed by the College’s Clinical Immunology and Autoimmune Diseases Committee. Letters of Inquiry are due on Feb. 15.

The Foundation raised more than $187,000 in 2023, $87,000 of which represented  individual donations from ACAAI members. The remaining $100,000 was a grant from GSK in support of the Community Grant Program. The Foundation aims to raise at least $1 million over a ten-year period ($100,000/year from 2021-2031) to award more grants and magnify our impact. We’re on track to get to the $1 million as we’ve met/surpassed our annual fundraising goals over the last three years. Members can give online at Plus, there are other ways to support the Foundation.

The Foundation has other activities in addition to research funding. A travel scholarship to a Fellow-in-Training from Quatar, Dr. Sara Saeed Ibrahim Mohamed, was awarded under the new International Outreach Program to allow her to attend the College’s 2023 Annual Meeting and present her research abstract (P169). She was paired with a College mentor and oriented to FIT programming and resources by our FIT Section’s leaders. Dr. Mohamed was also invited to join the College’s FIT Committee as its international representative. We received a very appreciative letter from her expressing excitement about her new role with us. This expanding international influence of the College does help our members by increasing interest in (and financial support of) our organization as well as our annual meeting. This also increases the diversity of our attendees, presenters and learners, which brings in other perspectives and approaches that ultimately benefit us and our patients.

No entity like the Foundation that exists within an organization such as the College can function without dedicated people doing the work. Our staff support is led by Katerina (Kate) Barcal, who keeps everyone on track and pointed in the optimal direction. The Foundation is led by a Board of Trustees made up of College members dedicated to administering the collected funds and engaging other members to become donors to further the purpose and activities of the Foundation. With the reorganization in 2021, David Engler, MD, FACAAI led the Board as President from 2021-2023 and provided fundamental energy and leadership for identifying and mapping both short- and long- term Foundation goals and activities. Melinda Rathkopf, MD, FACAAI is the Foundation’s new president for 2024. She and the Board of Trustees will continue to build on the success of the Foundation’s efforts.

Hopefully you now know more about the Allergists’ Foundation of the ACAAI and what it hopes to accomplish for us as members, our specialty and our patients. I hope you will consider giving to the Foundation. Together, we can make the Foundation’s goals and plans a successful reality for all of us. Thanks for reading and considering. I wish you all a safe and warm rest of the winter and I look forward to connecting again with you next month.

Gailen D. Marshall, Jr., MD, PhD, FACAAI