Meet Tania Elliott, M.D., the Chief Medical Officer at Nectar. A nationally recognized healthcare leader, she leads clinical strategy and quality across the company while educating people about allergies and treatments.
As an active member of the medical community, Dr. Elliott is a faculty mentor for Stanford University's Master of Science in Clinical Informatics Management (MCiM) program, a Clinical Instructor at NYU Langone Health, and a Senior Fellow for the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. She sits on the board of directors for the American Telemedicine Association and is the chair of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) Telehealth and Technology Taskforce. A prolific author of peer-reviewed publications on accessible care delivery, Dr. Elliott has appeared as a medical expert in media outlets including Good Morning America, NBC TODAY, and CBS Mornings. She has been named a Top Healthcare Transformer by MM+M, and a Top Health IT Influencer by HealthTech Magazine.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Do you have any allergies?
As an allergy sufferer, I know how hard it can be to find a doctor who makes you feel seen and heard. Enter Nectar, where understanding your journey and meeting you where you are is our priority. I’m excited to take my passion and track record for changing the status quo in healthcare and utilizing it to improve the lives of millions.
2. What is your job? What’s the best part? The most challenging part?
I love taking both my experience and knowledge as a physician and working with people across industries outside of healthcare so we can re-imagine what it’s like to give exceptional care to allergy sufferers. The old days of stuffy waiting rooms, never getting to speak with a human being on the phone, or feeling like a number in a doctor’s office are gone. Seeing your doctor should be a pleasurable experience where you don’t feel rushed and most importantly, you feel heard. Healthcare can stand to learn a few things from hospitality and other service industries. From a technology perspective, booking an appointment or understanding your treatment plan and results should be as simple as online banking and online shopping.
One challenging part of my job is sifting through all of the misinformation that exists out there, especially in the world of social media and “Doctor Google”. How can we get the most accurate, evidence-based information in a form that people can understand in the hands of patients? How can we empower patients with the knowledge to discern what is an accurate claim and what is not? With Nectar, best-in-class medicine is our priority—from offering convenient at home allergy testing and allergy drops treatment to building a new, state-of-the-art allergy testing clinic in New York City.
3. What do you do for Nectar?
I lead medical thought leadership, serving as the external face of Nectar to educate patients on how allergies manifest in the body and which evidence-based treatments are available. I also work closely with experts to deliver holistic care to patients. Oftentimes, a patient comes to an Allergist after being bounced around by many different doctors. It is our job to partner with patients to get to the root cause of symptoms. This often means collaborating with other specialists on a patient’s behalf including ENTs, Dermatologists, and Gastroenterologists. We don’t believe it’s the patient’s job to piece together what’s going on – it’s ours. I am also responsible for recruiting and hiring our best-in-class clinical team from top universities across the country, and overseeing clinical outcomes and quality so we can ensure patients are experiencing clinical improvement from their symptoms and that they have visibility into those outcomes.
4. What’s the biggest misconception people have about allergen immunotherapy (both subcutaneous and sublingual immunotherapy)?
Allergen immunotherapy is the process of giving patients small amounts of what they are allergic to and building this up over time so that the body no longer reacts. A general statistic is that 80% of people experience 80% improvement in their symptoms within 3-5 years. This goes for both subcutaneous (allergy shots) and sublingual (under the tongue) immunotherapy. Allergy shots require a commitment of coming to the Allergist’s office weekly for the first 6 months, and then monthly for 3-5 years. Allergy drops are taken daily from the comfort of home for that same amount of time. Not all allergen immunotherapy is created equal. It’s important to understand that the concentration of allergenic protein contained in shots or drops matters, and may differ based on the provider's protocol.
At Nectar, we use clinically proven concentrations that have been studied and published. It’s important to do your research, especially if you are deciding to order drops from an online provider. This is also the reason we at Nectar decided to open allergy clinics, our first of which is in NYC. We can do comprehensive allergy testing and treatment in person, and offer either shots or drops, whichever works best for your budget and schedule.
Allergy immunotherapy is not an immediate fix, but it is a long-term solution. The best results are seen when patients are on optimal symptom management for the first 3 months, typically with nasal corticosteroid sprays while the immunotherapy kicks in. From there, the allergy medications can begin to be peeled back with the goal of being symptom and medication-free.
5. How do you foresee the treatment of allergies changing in the future?
We are learning more and more about how and why allergies develop, which will ultimately lead to more promising treatment options. We have historically focused on addressing symptoms without understanding the “why”. New literature suggests that early exposure to “good” bacteria trains the immune system to fight viruses and bacteria. Things like having a pet in the first year of life, growing up on a farm, and limiting antibiotic use can all reduce the chances of developing allergies. We are also learning that what comes into contact with our skin can impact allergy development. For example, exposure to peanut or wheat on the skin first as opposed to the GI tract.
6. What’s your favorite outdoor activity and have allergies ever gotten in the way?
I love to play soccer and played in college. Once, right before entering my freshman year of college while on a run, I developed facial swelling and hives. I had to take large doses of antihistamines and was very close to going to the hospital. No one ever figured out what caused it, and this was when I vowed to become an Allergist. Years later, I learned that I had a ragweed pollen allergy. Piecing together the time of year of my run and the pollens prevalent in the area, I suspect there was a significant amount of ragweed pollen that I both inhaled and came into contact with my skin, triggering my reaction. I cannot stress enough the importance of finding a doctor who listens and takes a detailed history, similar to detective work, to partner with you to get to the root cause of your problems.
They say knowledge is power. We couldn’t agree more. Learn about the chronic health condition that affects 50 million Americans every year.