Couple’s gift spurs pediatric allergy research, trainingby Jennifer Wetzel Oct. 6, 2016, 8:34 AM
Kathy Delzell Anderson and her husband, Steve, know firsthand how allergies can affect a person’s overall health and well-being. Kathy is a lifelong allergy sufferer, and the couple’s son, Clint, has seasonal allergies.
They are among the large — and growing — number of people who are impacted by at least one allergy.
It is believed that allergies affect as many as 40 to 50 percent of all children worldwide. In the United States, one in 10 children has asthma, making it the third most common chronic disease in children younger than 18. Potentially deadly food allergies affect 1 in every 13 children, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
The Andersons expressed interest in getting more information and first met with Vanderbilt clinicians Scott Smith M.D., Ph.D., Mark Wurth M.D., Ph.D., and Yasmin Khan, M.D. They later spent time with Paul Moore, M.D., director of the Division of Pediatric Allergy, Immunology and Pulmonary Medicine, and learned more about Vanderbilt’s Pediatric Allergy and Immunology practice, which sees more than 4,000 patients a year and treats a broad range of allergic conditions, from common environmental allergies to the most complex disorders involving the skin and respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts.
“Allergies not only affect children, they affect adults, families and communities, yet I feel like this is one area that is often overlooked,” Kathy said, referring to competitive research funding. “Researchers have to rely more and more on individuals who step up to support their work.”
The Andersons are concerned that funding sources for cutting-edge research have become much more competitive and difficult for researchers to secure.
In hopes of advancing allergy research, the Brentwood, Tennessee, couple has established the Kathy Delzell Anderson and Stephen J. Anderson Fellowship Fund, which will support post-residency pediatric fellows in the Allergy-Immunology Fellowship Training Program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC).
This newly established fund will enable the division to support fellows as they pursue specialty training. In addition to launching this endowed fund with a gift, the Andersons also chose to make a gift in their will to grow the fund in the future.
“The team was so passionate about their work, and we thought they were working on things that would make a real impact,” Steve said. “Kathy and I discussed that many people have allergy problems, and the research and treatment at Vanderbilt can benefit a lot of people and needs to be supported. We felt that establishing this fellowship could aid in research and help a much larger population.”
A fellowship is a training program that enables physicians who typically have completed their residency to subspecialize in various areas of medicine. The fellows will also be engaged in research projects.
“Fellowships are incredibly important because they enable young physicians to subspecialize in different areas needed to care for the incredibly complex patient population at Vanderbilt,” said Moore, associate professor of Pediatrics and Pharmacology.
The division’s two most recent faculty hires stemmed from fellowship training at Vanderbilt. Jon Hemler, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics, focuses on food allergies, a disorder that has increased significantly over the last decade. Yasmin Khan, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics, focuses on identifying immunodeficiency in newborn screenings and is an expert in newborn screening for immune disorders.
“These two newest physicians bring to the program specialized skills they received during their fellowship at Vanderbilt and underscore the value of rigorous postdoctoral training,” said Donna Hummell, M.D., an allergist, immunologist and rheumatologist and professor of Clinical Pediatrics.
“I am grateful to the overwhelming generosity of Kathy and Steve Anderson as they invest in the next generation of young physicians interested in the clinical and research training in pediatric allergy and immunology. These endowed funds from the Andersons ensure that the best and brightest will be able to train in pediatric allergy and immunology.”