Starting out as a regional allergy meeting held in Bali over 27 years ago, the Asia Pacific Association of Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology (APAAACI) has since evolved into an international association devoted to advancing the study of allergic and immune diseases in the world’s most populous and diverse region. Now with 15 national societies from countries such as Australia, Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong and Mongolia, APAAACI has entered a new chapter with the newly appointed President Frank Thien, who previously served as the Association’s Secretary General. Here the respiratory and allergy physician at the Alfred and Box Hill Hospitals and Monash University in Melbourne shared his favourite moments working for the Association.
Why does APAAACI matter?
The constitution of APAAACI was modelled after that of World Allergy Organisation and other international allergy organisations. Our major aim is to encourage and support the development of the discipline of allergy, asthma and clinical immunology in the region, especially in those countries where there is not a society yet. To achieve this, we want to bring into APAAACI those national societies in our region who are not yet members of our organisation, and to encourage and assist in the formation of National Societies where none exist.
The APAAACI journal has become the best journal in Asia on allergy, asthma and clinical immunology, providing a platform for Asian colleagues to showcase the results of their researches to the world (www.apallergy.org).
In addition, our website have been upgraded to serve as a platform where member societies can upload their guidelines, their activities and events so that more physicians would become aware of this discipline.
We hope that by doing all these and more, APAAACI not only can halt the advance of the epidemic of allergic diseases but also can help prevent and treat these diseases more effectively.
How did APAAACI grow over the years?
Since the very first regional allergy meeting held in Bali in 1989, our association has gone through quite few name changes, first as the Asian Pacific Association of Allergology and Clinical Immunology (APAACI), who held the first Asian Pacific Congress in 1992 in Bangkok, and subsequent congresses were held every two to three years.
APAAACI has grown over the past two decades to include membership of most professional societies in the Asia Pacific region. In 2000, the Association changed its name from Asian Pacific to Asia Pacific to clarify its geographic basis. In 2007, the Association’s name was updated to include “Asthma”, reflecting the importance of the condition in the Asia Pacific. Congresses have increased in stature and have attracted the foremost international scientists and clinicians as contributors and participants. APAAACI Congresses serve as a major educational programme used to encourage exchange between countries for training programmes and research.
What are some of the most successful events so far?
The 8th Congress held in Singapore in 2010, as a conjoint congress with the Asia Pacific Association of Paediatric Allergy, Respirology and Immunology (APAPARI), was one of the most successful regional Congresses for APAAACI and APAPARI with 1400 registrants from the Asia Pacific as well as outside the region.
The 10th Congress in Kuala Lumpur in 2016, another conjoint congress with the APAPARI, attracted nearly 800 delegates.
What is good about organising a conjoint congress?
In the past we have held separate congresses which have split the available delegates, sponsors and speakers. It makes sense to hold conjoint congresses to attract a larger number of delegates, sponsors, and international speakers. However, it needs the agreement of executives of both organisations. The experience has been rewarding, and we intend to hold a conjoint congress again in Bangkok in November 2018.
What do you look for in venues and destinations for your events?
We consider the following: 1) facilities available at the venue, including meeting rooms for plenary and concurrent sessions, and accommodation; 2) the range in numbers of delegates which the venue can hold; and 3) a draft budget for the meeting, including income from sponsorship and registration, as well as costs and conference expenses. In general, the member society delegates favour a venue that has not held a previous congress, but may also favour a past venue with a good experience. Our congresses need to cater for 1000-1500 delegates although this will increase as we grow. The budget must also consider the cost and availability of accommodation, as many regional delegates may be coming from low-income countries.
What is the most memorable event you have attended?
At the Singapore 2010 meeting, we celebrated 21 years since the founding of APAAACI, and honoured the founding members and presidents with a presentation and a plaque. This recognises the history and vision of our founders, but also that we are a growing society, with a promising future.
Any special Congress moment that touched your heart?
In Taiwan in 2013, the Chair of the organising committee, Professor Jiu-Yao Wang selected as the theme song for the Congress the popular song by Taiwanese singer Teresa Teng, The Moon Represents My Heart. This was played throughout the Congress between sessions. At the Congress dinner, it was sung by a professional singer, but inviting all Congress organising committee members to come on stage and sing along. It created a wonderful memory of friendship and celebration.
How do you balance your real-life job with the responsibilities at APAAACI?
It is always a challenge to balance personal and professional obligations with association responsibilities. Our executive video conferences are held after-hours in the evening, and management responsibilities including congress planning, educational initiatives, journal and article writing also have to be fitted in. We just learn to prioritise and be efficient.
How do you see the future of your association?
The future of APAAACI is bright, as we continue to develop in the fastest-growing and most dynamic region of the world. We face challenges of careful financial management in attracting sponsors, maintaining our journal, holding successful and prestigious congresses, in order to promote our specialty in the region through education and public advocacy.
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