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What does a modern food allergy care team look like, and what are the individual roles?
What does the modern food allergy care team look like? And how do specialist roles interact with others?
In an interview with MD Magazine® while at the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) 2019 Scientific Meeting in Houston, Carina Venter, PhD, RD, associate professor of Pediatric Allergy & Immunology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, detailed her ideal food allergy team—while sharing the benefit of her allergy-specialist dietitians.
MD Mag: What is the dietitian’s role in allergy care?
Venter: You know, one of the allergists this morning said it's an exciting time to be an allergist. But I also think it's an exciting time to be an allergy-specialist dietitian. So, we help with diagnosis—if somebody ate a complex food with hidden ingredients, our main role really is to help with the dietary management, in terms of avoiding the allergens, suggesting substitute food.
As we're doing more and more oral immunotherapy, we're getting more involved in helping with maintenance dosage of patients, and then of course, my particular field of interest is the nutritional aspects that we should focus on when we want to prevent food allergies and other types of allergic diseases.
MD Mag: Does every food allergy team need a dietitian?
Venter: Ideally, there should be an allergy specialist dietitian in every allergy clinic. Unfortunately, particularly in the United States, there's only a few of us trained. We're working very hard with FARE to train more dieticians, so I'm hoping that in the near future—or perhaps not that near future—there will be an allergy specialist dietician in every clinic.
MD Mag: From your perspective, what should the entire allergy team look like?
Venter: So for me, I've just come out of the oral immunotherapy session. Dr. Douglas Mack gave a beautiful talk about implementing. He talked about having the allergist, the research nurse, and the counselor in the clinic. Perhaps not in a research nurse, but definitely an allergy specialist nurse. Something that he's talked to me a lot about is having access to an allergy specialist dietician, so I would definitely say my team would be the allergist, the dietician the nurse, and a counselor.
MD Mag: Does the allergist’s role shift at all with this new team design?
Venter: I think the allergist will always be the key person in this multidisciplinary team, but I think we're all extensions of what they do, and we save them time. So at Colorado Children's, where I work with Dr. David Fleischer, we do have 2 allergy specialist dieticians, we have a number of allergy nurses, and then 16 allergists I work with. And we are very fortunate to have a full-time psychologist working with us as well.
And I think it is definitely just the allergist being the key player, and making sure that every patient sees whoever they need to see.