February is Black History Month. This month we want to honor some of the amazing work Black Americans are doing in the field of asthma, allergies, COVID-19 and related conditions.
This group of people are using personal and professional experiences to educate and enrich their communities as well as advocate for greater awareness.
Dr. Michael B. Foggs has a long and distinguished career. He is currently Chief of Allergy and Immunology at Advocate Medical Group of Advocate Health Care in Chicago. In 2013, he became the first African American to serve as President of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI). He is also the first African American to become an ACAAI Distinguished Fellow. Dr. Foggs served on the Medical Advisory Board for Allergy & Asthma Network. He joined the Network at its advocacy day in Washington, DC in May 2014, speaking with members of Congress on the need for asthma preparedness in schools. Dr. Foggs has served on the Expert Panel 3 of the NHLBI National Asthma Education Prevention Program; the National Institutes of Health Asthma Outcomes Workshop Quality of Life Committee; and the World Allergy Organization’s Asthma Special Committee. He is past Chair of the Allergy, Asthma & Immunology section of the National Medical Association (NMA) and received NMA’s Distinguished Service Award in 2019.
Tolya L. Thompson is a physician assistant, community activist, speaker and children’s book author living in Sacramento, California. She has worked extensively with state and local governments across the United States to help increase literacy and improve health. Her books spotlight African-American children and families and teach health and life skills in a fun and inclusive way. Tolya wrote the books“Wheezing Winona Weatherby” and “Breathless Bethany Buttercup” about living with asthma. Later, she published her Piper Lee series: “Fabulous Me, Piper Lee And the Peanut Butter Itch” about food allergies and “Asthma Is Not Stopping Me, Featuring Fabulous Me, Piper Lee!” about asthma. Both stories feature an African-American heroine who projects unstoppable energy and courage despite living with food allergy and asthma. Allergy & Asthma Network disseminates the Piper Lee books at conferences and events. Both are available for sale on our website!
Dr. Cherie Zachary is an accomplished allergist and immunologist recognized as a Top Doc in the Minneapolis, Minnesota region. She practices at Midwest Ear, Nose, & Throat Allergy & Asthma. Dr. Zachary serves as Chair of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) Diversity Task Force and is a member of ACAAI’s Board of Regents. She participated in the development of the EczemaInSkinofColor.org website, a joint venture of Allergy & Asthma Network and ACAAI. The website serves as an aid to allergists and patients alike in diagnosing eczema in people of color. Dr. Zachary previously worked with Allergy & Asthma Network on its “Ask the Allergist” patient education video series. A graduate of Howard University College of Medicine, Dr. Zachary has served as Chair of the Allergy section for the National Medical Association.
Edwin Bolden is a father and patient advocate. His son, Kellen, died at age 10 from a severe asthma attack. Kellen’s death led to important changes in Georgia: in 2002, the Kellen Edwin Bolden Act allowed children to carry their asthma medicine with them and self-administer if needed. Kellen’s death inspired Dr. Graham to start Not One More Life in 2003. Edwin has remained active in the asthma community, most recently serving as a patient advocate for the Black People Like Me virtual conference series.
Emily Brown is a mother and the founder and CEO of the Food Equality Initiative (FEI). Her 1-year-old daughter was diagnosed with severe food allergies after suffering an anaphylactic reaction to peanut butter. Emily quickly learned the challenges that many food allergy patients face daily. Her experience of struggling to afford allergy-safe foods for her daughter inspired her to start FEI. The organization aims to increase access to allergy friendly and gluten-free foods. Learn more about Emily and FEI.
Charnette Darrington is a severe asthma patient and patient advocate. She was forced to wait two years for her health insurer to cover the medical procedure – bronchial thermoplasty – that would ease her severe asthma. As a result of step therapy by her insurer, she was instead prescribed oral corticosteroids, which can have significant side effects. In May 2019, Charnette advocated for federal step therapy legislation at Allergy & Asthma Day Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Javier Evelyn lives with food allergies and is the founder and CEO of Alerje, a MedTech and Digital Health startup company. Through Alerje, Mr. Evelyn helps food allergy patients and families take control of their allergies through technology. He is also the founding team member of MedTech Color, an organization aimed to advance the representation of persons of color in the medical device industry. Learn more about Javier and Alerje.
Sandra Finley is a patient advocate who served on the Patient Advisory Group for the Black People Like Me virtual conference series addressing asthma and COVID-19 disparities in the United States. She and her husband are COVID-19 survivors. Sandra is also President and CEO of the League of Black Women, an organization that advocates for professional Black women aspiring to leadership within their companies, businesses and communities.
Dr. LeRoy Graham is a retired pediatric pulmonologist who has a long history of working with Black Americans with asthma through outreach into communities. He is the founder of Not One More Life to bring asthma outreach at churches in predominantly Black communities in the Atlanta area. He joined Allergy & Asthma Network and helped guide the Not One More Life Trusted Messengers program. Dr. Graham served as a medical advisor to the Allergy and Asthma Network and helped facilitate the Black People Like Me virtual conference series to address asthma and COVID-19 disparities in the Black community. He announced his retirement in 2021.
Tresha Johnson and her son Savion teach children of all ages and families how to manage asthma in a fun, kid-friendly way. After losing her mother to asthma in 1996, Tresha saw that her 6-year-old son Savion was also showing signs of asthma. Watching Savion tackle his asthma, Tresha, a preschool teacher, was inspired to help other kids and families due the same. She self-published Adventures of the Hidden Asthma Triggers, which features Savion learning about what triggers his asthma. Through Allergy & Asthma Network, she connected with pharmaceutical company Meda U.S. to develop the Medikidz Explain Asthma comic book series. Learn more about Tresha and Savion.
Dr. Bridgette Jones is an accomplished allergist, immunologist and pediatrician at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. She serves as Medical Director for the hospital’s Office of Equity and Diversity. Dr. Jones focuses on pediatric therapeutics related to asthma and allergies. She is also associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine. On the national level, Dr. Jones serves as chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Drugs and chair of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma Immunology Asthma and Cough Diagnosis and Treatment Committee. She is also a member of the Food and Drug Administration Pediatric Advisory Committee. In 2020, Dr. Jones was a guest speaker at Allergy & Asthma Network’s virtual USAsthma Summit, discussing racism as a public health crisis that continues to cause health disparities.
Laonis Quinn, RN, MS, is a nurse and mother who is a certified asthma educator and advocate. Laonis lost her son, Anthony, in 2007 due to a fatal asthma attack. After this heartbreaking loss, she founded the Breathe Anthony J. Chapman Asthma Foundation. She has worked in numerous other asthma organizations and joined the Allergy & Asthma Network’s Board of Directors in 2021. Laonis strives to raise awareness about asthma and its impact on families and communities. Learn more about Laonis and the Breathe Anthony J. Chapman Asthma Foundation.
Thomas Silvera is a father and allergy awareness advocate. His 3-year-old son, Elijah-Alavi, died in 2017 at a daycare from a food allergy. Since Elijah’s death, Thomas has sought to bring awareness to the need for food allergy education at daycares and preschools. His advocacy led to changes in daycares requiring epinephrine auto-injectors to be stocked in daycares along with at least one staff member trained in administration of epinephrine and on how to recognize signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis. In 2018, “Elijah’s Law” implemented food allergy guidelines for all New York daycares. Learn more about Thomas and Elijah-Alavi.
Reverend Dr. Michael D. Stinson is medical doctor and lead pastor at East Point First Mallalieu United Methodist Church. His professional career has included medicine, military service, engineering, and now pastoring. He served as the chairperson of the board of directors for Not One More Life for 10 years. In 2021, Dr. Stinson participated in the Black People Like Me virtual conference series by sharing his personal experience surviving COVID-19.
Mary White is a community asthma educator. She has been involved in many projects involving asthma outreach and education. Mary served as a Patient Partner/Advisor for the Person Empowered Asthma Relief (PREPARE) Study. In 2021, she participated in the Black People Like Me virtual conference series. Mary shared her story and discussed how she became involved in research. She also encouraged others to become an asthma advocate in their community.