Women in Food Allergy Research

Yesterday, March 8th, was International Women’s Day.  This day has been in existence since 1911 to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.  I absolutely love this day because it provides me with an opportunity to read about a plethora of inspiring women yesterday as I came across their accomplishments on various social media platforms.  It was so awesome to see how many things in this world have been created due to the hard work of women everywhere.  As I read through these stories, I began to wonder about the impact that women have in the food allergy research community.  Luckily, March is Women’s History Month so I still have an excuse to do some brief research on the contributions that women make in the field of allergy research.  Today, you will get to learn about three amazing women in the allergy community.

The first woman I want to feature is Sandra Gawchik, DO, who has been my allergist for 18 years.  She is the recipient of the 2017 “Women in Allergy” Award presented by the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.  This prestigious award is given to women who have “advanced the role of women in the field of allergy/immunology … or who has made a significant contribution to the specialty”.  She has been the president of the Pennsylvania Allergy and Asthma Association and the Philadelphia Allergy Society and is an active member of several other societies involving the advancement in medical practice for allergists.  She has conducted lots of research on asthma and seasonal allergy topics, such as sublingual immunotherapy to house dust mite allergy (1), latex allergy (2), growth and bone maturation of asthmatic children treated with inhaled corticosteroids (3), and many more topics.   I am so thankful that I have been able to experience her guidance and expertise as part of the successful management of my food allergies.   

Edda Fiebiger, PhD was the 2017 recipient of FARE’s New Investigator Award for her research in inhibiting the active enzymes during allergic reactions to improve outcomes during oral immunotherapy.  Along with being an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Fiebiger is also a researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital.  Her research is focused on understanding the mechanisms behind food allergies in the immune system of the gastrointestinal tract (4).  Some of her recently published research has investigated Soluble FceRI as a biomarker for IgE-mediated diseases (5), the mRNA patterns in Eosinophilic Esophagitis patients (6), and the functions of dendritic cell bound IgE in allergic patients (7).  Dr. Fiebriger’s innovative research will give the allergic community a new and stronger understanding of the mechanisms behind allergies so that we can get closer to a cure.

The final woman I want to feature in this post is Stephanie Eisenbarth, MD, PhD.  Dr. Eisenbarth was a recipient of FARE’s Mid-Career Investigator Award for her research in inherited predisposition to food allergy.  Dr. Eisenbarth is very busy at Yale University as an Associate Professor of Immunology, Associate Chair of Research in Laboratory Medicine, and Assistant Director of Clinical Pathology Residency.  Her lab studies T cell driven pathology, Dock8’s role in allergic immune response, and the role of IgA in mitigating food allergy.  Her diverse research looks at many aspects of the immune response and why it occurs for many different conditions including allergies, asthma, and vaccines.

The three women I learned about today are just a small group of amazing and influential women in STEM who are going to make their mark on the world.  Their research will be important in improving the lives of the 15 million Americans with food allergies, and the food allergy community cannot wait for their discoveries.  I hope that you all had an amazing International Women’s Day and that you are empowered to pursue your unique passions, despite any push backs you face!

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