BUSINESS: OK Allergy & Asthma
The fall allergy season is almost upon Oklahoma, and that means the Oklahoma Allergy & Asthma Clinic (OAAC) is ready to help allergy-sufferers find relief with its high-tech facilities and highly-trained physicians. Serving the needs of Oklahomans and patients throughout the U.S. since 1925, they have kept up-to-date on the latest research and treatments.
What does it take to become an allergist? Garyl G. Geist, chief operating officer, explains that after completing medical school, physicians undergo three years of training in internal medicine or pediatrics and must pass either the American Board of Internal Medicine or the American Board of Pediatrics exam. Internists and pediatricians interested in becoming an allergist/immunologist have at least an additional two years of study, called a fellowship, in an allergy/immunology training program.
Within the past two years, OAAC has added three new allergists from some of the top allergy, immunology and asthma programs in the country: Dr. Shahan Stutes from Ohio State University, Dr. Gregory Metz from Duke University and Dr. Laura Chong from Johns Hopkins University. With these additions to their existing staff of board-certified physicians, it’s easy to see why the clinic has one of the best-trained staffs in the country.
Most people think when they go to an allergist they will have to take allergy shots (immunotherapy). Actually, only about half of the patients
referred become allergy patients. And only about half of those actually need allergy shots. The rest might only need medication. If immunotherapy is needed, it normally takes three to five years for completion. Immunotherapy represents one of three basic treatments, including allergen avoidance and medication, for allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis and asthma. Allergy shots are not effective for those with food or drug allergies or non-allergic
conditions like infections.
“In my first week working at the clinic I became a patient so I could understand what it was like from a patient’s perspective,” Geist said. “Turns out I was allergic and had moderate persistent asthma. Other than being diagnosed with bronchitis as a child, I’d never sought treatment. My primary physician would give me medicine to help manage the symptoms. I never knew there was a better way. I went 20 years as an adult without realizing I could have gone 20 years without feeling the way I did.”
When testing for allergies, the needles are so small they barely scratch the skin. Immunotherapy is not the typical shots people think of and are far less painful and hardly felt.
Considering they handle about 5,000 patients on immunotherapy at any given time, the staff goes out of their way to make sure they give the patient plenty of options. The main office is located at the Oklahoma Health Center campus with three satellite facilities around the metro area with additional hours on Saturdays. For more information, go to