By Jon Terry
September 12th, 2023
"Yes, I'm happy to help!"
While perhaps not as good as hearing I’ve won the latest lottery jackpot or having opera superstar Renee Fleming agree to have coffee with me, when John J. Condemi MD agreed to become medical advisor to Allergy Advocacy Association really made my day!
In 2010 Toni Taylor and I had just begun building the Allergy Advocacy Association from the ground up. We had a lot of ideas, some promising and many others vague and ill-defined. One thing we were sure of: we needed to talk to an allergist, one who was a clinician, researcher, scientist and lived in western New York.
Toni and I put together a list of names starting with doctors I knew networked from there . Then I (nervously) started cold-calling the names on our list. I had some very pleasant conversations with quite a few doctors but no offers of help or active participation.
With my very first conversation with Doctor Condemi, I was cautiously optimistic he would provide valuable insights, timely information and point me in the right direction. To my delight, he immediately said "Yes!" He even offered to meet with me as soon as possible. As you can imagine, getting on his schedule was no mean feat!
Dr. Condemi was the founder of Allergy and Asthma Immunology of Rochester (AAIR) and Infusion Center in Henrietta, NY. For many years John was a highly regarded clinician, researcher and innovating doctor for individuals and families with asthma and life-threatening allergies. He had a wealth of knowledge and experience; he was an almost authoritative source for so many sources of information and a network full of VIPs in the field of asthma and allergies. He was the founder of the New York State Society of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (NYSSAAI). And he was the founder of the Finger Lakes Allergy Society (FLAS) here in western New York.
On an autumn morning in 2011 we met at his office at A-AIR. It was crammed with books, files, folders and boxes. You could barely see the top of his desk. Dr. Condemi had many ideas for Allergy Advocacy. He suggested we develop a 'clearing house' of up-to-date allergy information for individuals and families with life-threatening allergies at risk for anaphylaxis. 'Clearing House' means: a central agency for the collection, classification, and distribution especially of information; an informal channel for distributing information or assistance. And that idea became an integral part of our website, e-newsletter and social media.
That first meeting was everything I could have hoped for. The doctor really gave me a lot of encouragement, helping to start our association in a positive direction. With John on board our little vessel of advocacy really started sailing ahead.
Best of all, Dr. Condemi got me involved with his public outreach efforts. I quickly realized how important a program of action was for me; working with individuals and families needing support, becoming directly involved with their concerns was very important.
The Anaphylaxis Community Experts program, sponsored by the Allergy and Asthma Network (aka The Network), offered our community free informational presentations detailing life-threatening allergens and anaphylaxis. Training how to properly administer an epinephrine auto-injector (EAI) device in an anaphylaxis emergency was a vital part of each presentation. The Network provided us with power-point slides, printed materials and many resources; Toni and I arranged the events and Dr. Condemi presented the medical material to each audience.
When Dr. Condemi wasn't available, we asked other local allergists to volunteer as presenters. As we moved forward, we produced one or more presentations every month, expanded the number of allergists involved with public outreach and provided businesses, summer camps, schools and child care facilities with up-to-date information and training.
With the enactment of the Emergency Allergy Treatment Act in New York state, Toni Taylor, co-founder of our association, developed Epi Near You NY, our anaphylaxis emergency training program. We already had a potential source of audience members and a network of volunteer physicians available for our new program. Using the ACE program as a foundation and Dr. Condemi as our advisor, ENYNY has performed many seminars for audiences via the world wide web as well as face-to-face.
At our annual Action Awards event our association presents the John J. Condemi MD award for outstanding community engagement and volunteer services that have enhanced medical treatment and research efforts to improve life, health and hope for the food allergy community.
This year's Action Awards event is scheduled for Wednesday, October 25th at 7pm.
Last August John Condemi passed away at the age of 90. Here is a quotation from his obituary:
"Dr. Condemi had a brilliant career in medical research and medicine making exceptional advancements in the analysis and treatment of allergies, asthma, immunology and rheumatology, his chosen medical fields. He was an enthusiastic and compassionate educator and mentor to numerous medical personnel and institutions."
Not to mention helping a guy needing a medical advisor, an "allergy guru" and a great friend.
Thanks again, Dr. Condemi! Rest in peace, John!
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