Dale and Julie Burghardt’s $5 million gift will establish a new Food Allergy Center at the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine, which will be the first and only food allergy-focused academic health center in the Pacific Northwest.
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Their gift will support startup costs for the center, including a new endowed chair, enhanced clinical services, new research, and clinical trials. The center will be located within the current OHSU Allergy and Immunology Clinic, led by Dr. Shyam Joshi, an Assistant Professor of medicine and head of allergy and clinical immunology in the OHSU School of Medicine. It is expected to open in 2023.
“It’s going to be game-changing, not only in our region, but for the country,” Joshi said.
The nearest regional food allergy research center for patients is in the Bay Area, leaving patients across 5 states with just one option, hundreds or thousands of miles away. With the establishment of the Burghardt Food Allergy Center in Portland, OHSU will be able to serve patients across Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Idaho, and Montana.
The Burghardts’ inspiration for the center came from their family’s own personal experience, with both Julie and their now 5-year-old grandson, Harrison, managing food allergies.
Their grandson presented terrifying symptoms when he was an infant. He had 3 severe allergic reactions to food. Dale and Julie Burghardt recalled the stress of being on the phone with their daughter as Harrison, just a few months old, was rushed to OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in an ambulance.
Eventually, he was diagnosed with food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES), a severe condition that typically affects young children and occurs 2 to 4 hours after eating.
“It was such a relief just knowing what was wrong so we could do something about it,” Dale said.
Unlike more commonly known food allergens like nuts, Joshi said FPIES can occur after a child eats foods common for babies, such as oatmeal, rice, sweet potatoes, bananas or green beans. Most children eventually grow out of the condition, but, like other food allergies, diagnosing and managing FPIES can be dramatic and traumatizing for families, as the Burghardt family learned.
“Our No. 1 motivation was to help spare other families from going through the stress and anxiety our family went through before finding out Harrison had FPIES,” Dale said. “We reached out to OHSU because of its great reputation, the fact that it’s the largest teaching hospital in the state, and because we felt we had the potential to achieve the greatest results working with OHSU through outreach, education, research and treatment of food allergies. We were extremely happy when OHSU quickly shared their vision for a food allergy center, which will have a much broader impact than we had ever envisioned.”
The food allergy center aims to:
- Provide enhanced patient care to both children and adults with food allergies
- Educate patients in the community as well as clinicians who are not as specialized in identifying, diagnosing and treating food allergies
- Expand research into the increased prevalence of food allergies and better ways to treat them, including severe allergies like FPIES
This press release was provided by Oregon Health & Science University.