History of the World Allergy Organization: A Global Scientific Meeting on Allergy Comes to Asia—The XX World Allergy Congress of Bangkok, Thailand, 2007
© World Allergy Organization; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2011
Published: 10 October 2011
History of the World Allergy Organization: In 1951, the leaders in allergy from all over the world came together to form the International Association of Allergology and Clinical Immunology (IAACI). For the next 60 years, the allergy world converged at the IAACI triennial meetings, which became biennial in 2003. The international meetings, originally named the International Congress of Allergology and Clinical Immunology (ICACI), are now the World Allergy Congress (WAC) hosted by the World Allergy Organization (WAO). Everyone who has aspired to have worldwide recognition has played a part in IAACI-WAO. The History of the World Allergy Organization traces the global arc of the allergy field over the past 60 years. The current officers of WAO elected to focus on this rich history, inviting prominent leaders who are interested in being part of this history project to write about their time with IAACI-WAO. This series will be presented in Cancún, México, as part of the XXII World Allergy Congress (December 4-8, 2011). Leading up to the Congress in Cancún, the World Allergy Organization Journal is presenting segments of the History as part of the "Notes of Allergy Watchers Series." Please enjoy.
—Michael A. Kaliner, MD
Historian, and Past President (2006-2007)
World Allergy Organization
On behalf of the Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Society of Thailand (AAIST), I am honored to have an opportunity to write this recollection of the XX World Allergy Congress (WAC 2007), which was held in Bangkok, Thailand during December 2-7, 2007. I had the pleasure of serving as the President of the local organizing committee (LOC).
Bidding for the Congress
The journey for Thailand to become the host of the WAC 2007 began as early as the middle of 1999. The Executive Committee of AAIST (formerly called AIST, with Asthma added to the name in 2009) realized that there was a possibility of the WAC (at that time called ICACI--International Congress of Allergology and Clinical Immunology) to come over to Asia in 2007, following the Congresses in Sydney 2000, Vancouver 2003, and Munich 2005. The AAIST began its lobbying activities in 1999 at the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology Annual Meeting in Lisbon. It later became clear that the Congress was indeed coming to Asia in 2007, and hence the bidders were mostly from Asian countries (India, Thailand, Israel, and South Korea).
Formation, Planning, and the Royal Birthday Celebrations
Venue Selection and Development of the Scientific Program
Michael Kaliner, who would become the President of WAO after the Congress in Munich in 2005, "went into fifth gear" preparing for WAC 2007 in Bangkok right after the Munich meeting. At that time, the LOC had already chosen the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, one of the most beautiful congress venues in Thailand located right in the heart of Bangkok, as the selected venue. We interviewed 2 professional congress organizers and decided on Congrex.
Successful Participation in A Beautiful Venue
As the Congress date drew nearer, political upheaval heated up. To our relief, we were assured by most authorities that nothing would happen during the King's birthday since all the Thais were eager to deliver good wishes to our beloved King on that occasion. As such, we were able to reassure the world and our Congress registrants and sponsors. The Congress drew about 4100 participants from 100 countries around the world, significant and well rewarding numbers especially considering the difficulty we had at that time. Despite these hard times, we were able to convince most of the major sponsors to come to Thailand. One of them was Glaxo-SmithKline, which began the association with WAO in 2007.
The decoration of the venue was perfect. We established the global village of 34 national societies, in the tradition of WAO, with several local societies participating including Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The entire floor space of the venue was used up, which fitted perfectly well with our program. The audience was delighted by the new decorations in the venue and new carpets. Actually, several participants found resting places on the newly carpeted floor and steps of the venue!
The Scientific Program was a true success and offered a generous amount of events:
International Symposium on Immunotherapy (one full day)
International Symposium on Food Allergy (one full day)
House Dust Mite Workshop (one-half day)
Emerging Societies Program Meeting
Postgraduate Courses: 6
Plenary Sessions: 12
Breakfast Seminars: 9
Meet the Expert: 5
Clinical Year in Review: 6
Sponsor Symposia: 10
Satellite Symposia: 3
Sister Symposia: 19
Oral Abstract Sessions: 25
Poster Sessions: 3
and many others
The audio-visual services were impeccable. Most of the speakers were happy with the local Congress hostesses (who were mostly students from Thai Universities, my daughter was among them). One of the innovations initiated at WAC 2007, at the suggestion of Richard Lockey, was the "WAC Championship." The WAC Championship was a team competition to answer up-to-date questions in allergy/immunology, occurring every noon in the Exhibit Hall. This activity quickly became a favorite event, competing with the noon debates. The final round of the WAC Championship was held at the Congress Gala event on the third night of the Congress at the Rose Garden. Again, the Gala night at the Rose Garden was a memorable event for all participants. Food and drink were sumptuous and plentiful. Shows were traditional and eye-catching. The event ended up with elegant fireworks celebrating the King's birthday and a chance for participants to float the "Kratong"--"Loy Kratong" in the Garden Lake (Figure 6).
Overall, the WAC 2007 was a major success for the allergy community worldwide--both East and West. Since it was held in Bangkok, the city considered to be located in the strategic center of Asia, the meeting attracted large numbers of participants from Asia. Hence, the Congress exposed Asia to cutting-edge knowledge in the world of allergy and immunology. The consequence of the project has been immense in terms of enhancement in clinical service, academic teaching, and research in allergy and immunology in Thailand as well as throughout Asia.
Last but not least, the reasons behind the success were due to significant contributions from several committees and societies. I would like to thank all executive members of the AIST (Professors Suttiphan, Montri, Boonchua, Sathit, Suwat, Pantipa, Orapan, Orathai and colleagues), WAO (Michael Kaliner, Carlos Baena-Cagnani, Richard Lockey, Lanny Rosenwasser, Walter Canonica, Anthony Frew), all of the members of the all the organizing committees and of course the WAO staff and the Congrex staff for making WAC 2007 Bangkok a successful and memorable event for all members of WAO.
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