Seeking Care from a Board-Certified Allergist/Immunologist

If you are trying to decide if you are an allergic person and google the term “allergies,” you will find over 90 million results. In that sea of 90 million results, you will find a lot of false information regarding allergies and a lot of opinions from people, and even physicians, who are not formally trained in discussing allergies. So, when you are ready to find answers that you can trust, it’s time to speak with physicians who are board-certified in Allergy and Immunology.

What does it mean to be “board-certified” in Allergy and Immunology? All physicians (with MD or DO behind their name) have completed four years of education in medical school. Following medical school, physicians complete a “residency program.” A residency program is a training program where a new physician is under direct supervision of physicians that have finished their training for a defined number of years. There are residency programs for all specialties from pediatrics and internal medicine to surgery and obstetrics.

For those physicians interested in a career in Allergy and Immunology, one must first complete a residency in Pediatrics, Internal Medicine or a combined Pediatric-Internal Medicine program. Following the completion of this three year residency, the physician must sit for the board exam in that specialty. Once the physician has passed the board exam and received approval from their supervising physicians to practice independently, they are now a “board-certified” Pediatrician or Internist.

However, to be board-certified in Allergy and Immunology, the physician must expand on their education and knowledge. The physician must complete a two to three year fellowship in Allergy and Immunology at a credentialed program. Like residency, the physician spends their time during fellowship working under direct supervision of a senior physician who has completed training. During fellowship, the physician spends time seeing inpatient and outpatient consults, performing research and listening to lectures and reading, all in the field of Allergy and Immunology. 

Training in the field of allergy and immunology includes topics such as nasal allergies, food allergies, asthma, eczema, sinus disease, hives, swelling, anaphylaxis, recurrent infections and abnormal immune systems, to name a few. Once their training is completed, the physician must sit for a second board exam specific to Allergy and Immunology. If the physician receives approval from their training program to practice independently and passes the board exam, they are now “board-certified” in Allergy and Immunology.

Board-certified Allergists also seek out membership in the professional societies related to their field, most notably the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) and the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). Both annually hold a conference so members of these societies are able to stay up to date on current publications and new research in their field.

Board-certified Allergists work closely with colleagues in other specialties to help optimize care for their patients. We often coordinate care with Otolaryngologists (ENT) physicians who are trained in surgical management of sinuses and related diseases. We also coordinate care with pulmonologists who specialize in diseases of the lung and dermatologists who specialize in diseases of the skin. We are able to provide the essential knowledge from our specialized allergy and immunology training to help manage patients when working with these other specialties.

So, next time you go to Google to search out answers for your allergies, take the time to find a board-certified allergy and immunology physician and make an appointment to get your questions answered!