University of Maryland’s College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, August 2012 – From seasonal sneezing to gluten sensitivities to the widespread banishment of the humble peanut, allergies affect the quality of life of millions of Americans. Through his passionate advocacy of allergy education, his innovative treatment methods and his appearances on programs including Good Morning America and The Today Show, Dr. Clifford Bassett, a graduate of UMD’s College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, has emerged as our nation’s go-to allergy doctor.
A board-certified allergist and immunologist, Dr. Bassett is the medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York, a renowned treatment center that is also known for the resources and content it features online at https://allergyreliefnyc.com/. The videos and articles posted feature Dr. Bassett making appearances on programs such as The Dr. Oz show—these appearances help Dr. Bassett fulfill his mission of democratizing allergy relief and helping people understand that no matter how bad the problem, there is always a treatment or a solution.
“Young and old, men and women—allergies don’t discriminate. A lot of people suffer from allergy and asthma symptoms. But this is a treatable problem,” Dr. Bassett said. People get overwhelmed, because allergy and asthma problems are so widespread and can be so problematic. But there are a lot of good resources available on the internet, and working with your doctor can get the job done. A successful treatment can be found for many allergy problems.”
Some of the treatments Dr. Bassett advocates include getting tested for food, contact and seasonal allergies; treating symptoms with diet and exercise; seeking medical instead of cosmetic solutions for issues including puffy eyes; and making small lifestyle changes that can make a big difference. Seeking medical advice has benefits beyond sneezing less or breathing easier, Dr. Bassett says.
“My patients are amazed at how much the quality of their lives improves after we work out a successful treatment plan,” Dr. Bassett says. “They have more energy and become more productive. Their love lives improve. They enjoy their favorite activities more. They discover new foods and recipes and enjoy cooking more. They look better, they feel better.”
As much as allergies and asthma are in the news and are the topic of school and community discussions now, Dr. Bassett said they will continue to be a big public problem. Even though new and increasingly effective solutions are developing every day, the root causes of allergies and asthma aren’t going away—they are getting worse.
“We’re in the middle of an allergy epidemic, from food issues to adult asthma. This is in part because of climate change, which contributes to global pollen production, which leads to respiratory allergies, skin problems and contact dermatitis,” Dr. Bassett said. “The warmer the weather gets, the longer the allergy season is. Right now, the pollen production season is about four weeks longer than it’s been in the past. And the pollen that is being produced is ‘supercharged’ in a way.”
Gluten sensitivities and celiac disease—an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food—are also topics of great concern for many of Dr. Bassett’s patients, especially the parents of children who suffer from these problems.
“The interesting thing about gluten allergies and celiac disease is that people tend to experience symptoms and have no idea what the problem is. They dismiss symptoms and suffer through problems that can easily be treated. It can take a little investigation; a little digging,” Dr. Bassett said. “For example, I have seen gluten allergies and celiac disease in young people present as behavioral problems in addition to the traditional abdominal symptoms. It is essential to do a comprehensive evaluation for any individual who has persistent abdominal symptoms especially after ingesting wheat and gluten products.”
Dr. Bassett said his investigative spirit—his desire to solve medical and scientific mysteries—was fostered during his time at the University of Maryland. As a psychology major, Dr. Bassett developed his critical thinking skills and learned about the value of research and exploration.
“UMD gave me an excellent foundation of skills and knowledge that helped to shape my medical career. I became interested in other people, in making connections. My education there fed my curiosity. In my current practice, I always think about the psychological issues that might be behind the physical issues,” Dr. Bassett said.
Today, Dr. Bassett continues his academic pursuits by serving as a clinical assistant professor at medicine and a member of the teaching faculties of the NYU School of Medicine and the NYU Langone Medical Center. He also is a clinical assistant professor of medicine and otolaryngology and at SUNY Downstate—Long Island College Hospital. But he also stays connected with UMD, after being contacted by the University, who saw a televised interview with Dr. Bassett, whose Maryland diploma was hanging in the background.
“Maryland has high-end academics and also has the agricultural and life-sciences resources to be an allergy powerhouse,” Dr. Bassett says. “There could be a great pollen counting center here. There is a wealth of knowledge here, and a lot of resources that could improve air quality and the quality of life for a lot of people.”
Time will tell if Dr. Bassett’s dream of making Maryland an “allergy powerhouse” will come to fruition. But for now, he’ll stay connected with his alma matter. After all, his son might soon be applying to UMD.
In the meantime, Dr. Bassett is sure to carry on his popular media appearances, his book projects and his mission of helping America feel better, one allergy or asthma sufferer at a time.