Dr. Maeve O’Connor recounts the story of a young patient who was diagnosed with a severe egg allergy.
The issue was more than physical.
“He said, ‘I’m petrified I’m going to eat something with egg in it,’ ” O’Connor said. While O’Connor treated the allergy, a therapist who works in her office has started to treat the patient’s fear.
O’Connor, who has worked as an established allergist in Charlotte since 2003, is one of three allergy physicians to graduate from the University of Arizona’s two-year Fellowship of Integrative Medicine program.
During the fellowship, “lights went off in my head,” O’Connor said.
“I always felt like we had something missing when it comes to taking care of patients,” she said. “I wanted to start an allergy clinic that treated patients in a different way.”
O’Connor, who is in her early 40s, started Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Relief in January 2013 – the same day she began her fellowship at the University of Arizona. She steadily has added holistic components to her practice.
That means her offices have facilities for allergy shots as well as an on-site therapist and nutritionist. O’Connor offers traditional allergy testing and is adding a massage therapist and acupuncturist to her staff.
I always felt like we had something missing when it comes to taking care of patients. I wanted to start an allergy clinic that treated patients in a different way.
Dr. Maeve O’Connor, allergist at AAIR
Patient Michele Snyder said she and her children have incorporated an anti-inflammatory diet into their lives and take allergy shots, which have helped control severe reactions to cats and spring allergy season.
Snyder, 45, who lives in Cotswold and has allergies and asthma, said she no longer relies on a rescue inhaler multiple times a day.
O’Connor “takes the time to figure out the root cause of your symptoms and is very proactive in finding a solution set to your particular needs, instead of trying to force you into a pre-determined treatment regimen,” Snyder wrote in an email.
Snyder added that O’Connor “stays abreast of the new and improved treatment options to make sure you are receiving the best care possible.”
O’Connor opened her first office in Blakeney, and she’s since added locations in Elizabeth and Steele Creek, and spends a few days a month working in Salisbury.
Lauren Dunlap, 32, has seen O’Connor for five years for treatment for a primary immunodeficiency disorder, a rare congenital disease that makes her immune system unable to fight off everyday infections and germs.
Dunlap said she talks with O’Connor, who is one of the few doctors in the region to specialize in PI, about eating foods that boost immunity. She also takes supplements and exercises regularly, which has helped her try to stay well during the three weeks between treatments.
“I have been very lucky to have her as my doctor,” Dunlap wrote in an email. “I am still alive today because of her.”
O'Connor said she works with other medical professionals in her offices to discuss patients' cases and put together the most effective therapies. She tells patients that she treats people, not test results, although she is happy to read new patients’ medical histories.
Treatments often are geared toward reducing the effects of “pro-inflammatory lifestyles,” according to O’Connor, where everything from food to stress can lead to the development of allergies.
New patients often complain they are fatigued and later find out they have an allergy, she said.
AAIR also offers a food desensitization program for patients with specific types of food allergies and group consultations, where patients with common concerns can talk about their experiences and receive medical advice.
Snyder wrote that O’Connor “puts her patients' well-being above her personal gain on a daily basis and is not willing to just sit back and accept the status quo as ‘the only option.’ Her dedication is apparent in each of her patient encounters and all the work she and her staff do.”
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.