The Sabrina Shannon Memorial Award is a Food Allergy Canada sponsored award, made possible through an educational grant from TD Securities. Two individuals in post-secondary school who have contributed significantly to the Canadian food allergy community are selected for a $1,000 award.
This year, our winners are Akash Kothari and Aliya Guttman. We commend them for their strong commitment to raising food allergy awareness and educating others.
Meet Akash Kothari
As someone who was diagnosed with multiple food allergies at the age of two, Akash has had a lot of experience in raising food allergy awareness.
A 20-year-old student with a double major of Immunology and Nutritional Sciences, and an active Emergency First Responder at the University of Toronto, Akash is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and green peas. Watching his mother champion food allergy advocacy issues in his school and community of Mississauga, Ontario throughout his childhood, Akash felt a natural pull to continue creating awareness on his own path as he entered university.
With a belief that all students should have a voice in their community, he founded the Food Intolerance and Allergy Club at the University of Toronto. The club helps raise awareness and advocates on campus by holding regular meetings for students. The group advocates for change on campus, disseminates helpful information on safe dining options, and even helps answer campus allergy-related questions from prospective students and their parents. With the support and recognition from Campus Life Coordinators, the group has been able to share their resources with Food Services, leading to better food allergy management in dining halls.
Given his time and experience partaking in cutting-edge food allergy research, Akash was recently elected as the fourth-year representative of the Immunology Students’ Association at U of T. Working with Dr. Thomas Eiwegger (Staff Physician, Hospital for Sick Children and Associate Professor of Paediatrics and Immunology, University of Toronto), Akash has been helping to create a new food allergy model for drug development, judge the effectiveness of novel food allergy testing, and publish articles about extremely rare and previously unreported cases of food allergy in journals.
Immersing himself in the science around food allergy, Akash stays updated with exciting developments and shares his knowledge within his club and association. He hopes to pursue graduate studies in the field of allergy and immunology en route to his goal of becoming an emergency physician to treat those who have experienced anaphylaxis.
We congratulate Akash Kothari as a well-deserving recipient of this year’s award and look forward to his continued impact in food allergy.
Meet Aliya Guttman
Aliya is a 17-year old from Toronto, Ontario entering her first year in the Faculty of Science at Queen’s University. After being diagnosed with food allergy at 6-months old, Aliya has managed multiple food allergies to peanut, tree nuts, eggs, sesame, soy, sunflower seeds, and shellfish.
When growing up, Aliya faced many challenges balancing safety with a desire to not be defined by her food allergies. This helped motivate her to educate people with and without food allergy. Her initial effort in raising food allergy awareness took her right back to the place where it all started: The Hospital for Sick Children. This was where Aliya had allergist appointments growing up, and even visited its emergency room when she had an anaphylactic reaction. She joined the hospital’s volunteer program, helping to give back to the community of hardworking individuals who took care of her throughout her youth.
Continuing to uncover ways to help past supporters of her own food allergy journey, Aliya reached out to her former elementary school in hopes of sharing her knowledge to young students. After meticulously planning informative, fun and concise age-appropriate presentations around food allergy, Aliya was given the approval by the school principal to present to every class. Her presentations included a wide range of content, from educating about cross-contamination, epinephrine auto-injectors, to recognizing signs and symptoms. She aimed at fostering support for students with food allergy by empowering all students with practical knowledge to help keep an allergy-safe school.
Before COVID-19, Aliya was on track to expanding her presentations to more schools to further her impact. We look forward to seeing how she brings more education to elementary school students, as well as on campus when she enters university this fall.
We congratulate Aliya on all of her efforts and are proud to name her a recipient of this year’s award.