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Prospective Allergists Find a Sense of Belonging through the Chrysalis Project

Chrysalis reception at the 2023 AAAAI Annual Meeting
For Miriam Al-Saedy, participating in the Chrysalis Project provided the perfect opportunity to connect with other people interested in allergy/immunology. “It was a great feeling being in a room of aspiring allergists and it felt wonderful to not be the only one interested in allergy and immunology in my medical school class, since it can be quite a niche field,” she said. “I greatly appreciated networking with my fellow and faculty attending mentor who provided me with insights into this field, and am grateful for gaining these lifelong connections.”
It was a sentiment echoed by many of the medical students and residents who participated in the Chrysalis Project during the 2023 AAAAI Annual Meeting in San Antonio. The AAAAI established the unique program to provide U.S. and Canadian medical students and internal medicine and/or pediatric residents who are undecided about their specific career path with the opportunity to explore allergy/immunology and increase interest in the subspecialty. The core of the project is a special program that takes place during the AAAAI Annual Meeting. In addition to exploring the specialty, participants have the opportunity to make critical connections. The program has been so successful that the AAAAI Board of Directors recently approved funds for continuation and expansion of the project, including additional funding for travel scholarships.
Aaron Schwab
Aaron Schwab was among those who attended the program this year. “I was able to network with A/I fellowship program directors, spend time with my FIT mentor, and further cultivate relationships with my fellow program participants,” he said. “The experience demonstrated how close of a community the national network of allergists/immunologists is. All of the faculty and trainees I interacted with were passionate about their field and eager to share their experiences.”
Ms. Al-Saedy agreed. “I met not one, but two of the Chrysalis Project Faculty attendings who previously trained my allergist attending in Washington state. It was an “It's a Small World” moment!”
When asked for a memory that really stood out about the event for him, Phil Mendez, DO, MPH, talked about the excitement of meeting his faculty mentor and FIT mentor. “They show such high levels of enthusiasm and passion regarding their day-to-day clinical and research experiences, the future of the field, and the positive impacts that allergists/immunologists have on patients and their families. Needless to say, their excitement was very contagious!”
Miriam Al-Saedy
Participants also expressed enthusiasm about A/I research, and had the chance to discuss all the fascinating advances coming from it.

“I was able to have intellectual discussions during the poster hall sessions with residents and program directors, as well as with various fellows where I learned about their future research endeavors,” said Ms. Al-Saedy.
There have been 1,260 Chrysalis participants since 1999. Chrysalis participants receive free registration, housing for up to four nights, roundtrip airfare, and more.
Mr. Schwab is interested in pursuing a career that includes research and clinical practice, and attending the AAAAI Annual Meeting allowed him to learn more about A/I in both contexts. “I received helpful feedback regarding my dissertation focus, and was introduced to the wide breadth of professional opportunities, clinical specialization, and research focus implicit to A/I. I acquired a more holistic understanding of what it means to be a physician-scientist specializing in A/I and formed relationships that will no doubt benefit me throughout my training and professional career.”
Phil Mendez, DO, MPH
Some participants, like Dr. Mendez, were able to share their own unique experiences with A/I that they’ve encountered during their training. “I was able to share a rare and interesting case of “leaky SCID” that was seen at my institution’s immunology clinic,” he said. By attending the Annual Meeting, he was able to discuss the case with a larger variety of people from different backgrounds. “Attending the Annual Meeting helped me build my professional network and make connections that will be valuable throughout my career.”