In the early 1990s, allergic disorders were under-recognized in Hong Kong and public knowledge of allergies was very poor. The lack of formal training for allergy specialists had hampered effective treatment for allergy sufferers. Hence, the root causes of allergic diseases were often missed or unaddressed and preventative strategies were not adopted. Back then, only a meagre minority of physicians accepted allergy testing; many found immunotherapy a far-fetched myth, even akin to witchcraft. In light of the need of allergy awareness among medical professionals amidst a growing prevalence of allergic disorders in Hong Kong, a group of dermatologists, otolaryngologists, paediatricians and respiratory physicians gave birth to the Hong Kong Institute of Allergy (HKIA) in 1996.
The missions of the HKIA are to introduce and promote allergy as a medical discipline and to foster a professional forum for fellowship and scientific exchange for the benefits of allergic patients in Hong Kong. It is dedicated to bringing cutting-edge knowledge on the management of allergic diseases to the medical community; training aspiring allergists and allied health professionals; and promoting clinical services and research as well as public education. Over the last two decades, the HKIA has established strong connections with local, regional and international allergy organizations, including the Hong Kong Allergy Association, the World Allergy Organization, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), Asia Pacific Association of Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology (APAAACI), the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI), the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) and many national and regional allergy societies.
Our first Hong Kong Allergy Convention (HKAC) was supported by the ACAAI and successfully held in 1998. The convention featured distinguished international and regional speakers who shared their cutting-edge knowledge and insights on the latest advances in the management of allergy and asthma and attracted many local and international attendees. This convention has now become a highly reputed event held biennially in the city and forms an important part of the conference calendar for a wide spectrum of medical professionals, including general practitioners, allergists, immunologists and related disciplines, as well as allied health professionals, in Hong Kong and beyond.
HKIA also organises frequent educational seminars and an annual scientific meeting for local doctors, nurses, dietitians and other allied health professionals. The most recent annual scientific meeting of HKIA was held on 15 September 2019. Many renowned speakers came to enlighten us, which was very heart-warming at a time of unprecedented political upheaval in HK.
The HKIA endeavours to facilitate professional development of its members and to translate knowledge to clinical practice, which ultimately benefits patients who have been struggling to cope with allergic diseases. HKIA sponsors members to attend local and international scientific meetings; offers annual scholarships to trainees for training and overseas attachment, HKIA also offers traveling exchange grants to regional young researchers to join our meetings. Throughout the years, the HKIA has encouraged research on epidemiological and clinical studies of asthma, food allergies, allergic rhinitis and other allergic disorders. Its core members have participated in large-scale studies, such as the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) led by Professor Christopher Lai in the past and lately Euro-prevall food allergy studies led by Professor Gary Wong (President Elect of HKIA). The HKIA continues to explore ways to help research efforts, including support for implementation of a translational research approach through clinical academic centres of excellence. HKIA has been actively engaging with various undergraduate and postgraduate training organizations to revise and enhance the allergy curriculum. The most impactful influence is revitalizing adult allergy training and service in the public health care sector.
HKIA publishes regular newsletters, guidelines, position papers, scholarly articles and authoritative commentaries. It has an active presence on Facebook, Twitter as well as on its own website. The electronic Newsletter is particularly informative, reader friendly and welcoming to all.
HKIA’s work with Mainland China should also be highlighted. In earlier years, HKIA had supported and facilitated Mainland colleagues to connect with the international community and provided up-to-date training for allergy-related health care professionals from different parts of China. It is HKIA’s honour to witness the fast-paced growth of the allergy discipline in China over the years with the mutual exchange and learning becoming increasingly frequent.
From our humble beginnings, the HKIA has now developed into a substantial body of over eight hundred members. The HKIA should rightly be proud of its achievements, but none could have happened without the foresight and commitment of the many who have journeyed with us. We would like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt gratitude to the founders, Past Presidents and Council Members for their hard work and dedication, especially the Immediate Past President, Dr. Tak-hong Lee, and Honorary Secretary Dr. Helen Chan for their capable leadership and unwavering support!
Dr. Marco Ho
Hong Kong Institute of Allergy