An Interview with Tonya Winders, President and CEO of Allergy & Asthma Network

Nov 1, 2015 by

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An Interview with Tonya Winders, President and CEO of Allergy & Asthma Network;

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) Can you first tell us about yourself, your education and experience?

Tonya Winders, MBA is currently the President and Chief Executive Officer of Allergy & Asthma Network, the leading patient advocacy organization dedicated to ending the needless death and suffering due to asthma, allergies and related conditions. Tonya has over 16 years’ experience in leadership roles within the allergy and asthma industry.

From sales and marketing leadership to managed markets access, she has worked tirelessly to ensure patients have access to effective diagnostic and treatment tools. Tonya has worked closely with the leadership of the ACAAI & AAAAI to address challenges currently facing the integrity of allergy and asthma care throughout the US while spreading awareness and preparedness messages to patients and caregivers.

Personally, Tonya is the mother of five children, four of whom have asthma and/or allergies, ranging in age from 9-15 years old. She enjoys spending time with her husband of 18 years Brian Winders and coaching cheerleading.

2) What is the difference between allergies and asthma?

Allergies are the body’s hyper response to a foreign body which produces an antibody called specific IgE resulting in symptoms like sneezing, nasal congestion, red, itchy eyes, etc. Asthma is often triggered by allergies; however, asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs resulting in inflammation and bronchoconstriction of the airways.

3) For students who have asthma, I know that it is a life threatening disease. How well are teachers trained to work with these students?

Most teachers are trained annually by the school nurse on the basics of recognizing the signs and symptoms of asthma and responding accordingly.

4) I know that students with allergies and asthma are entitled to reasonable accommodations and modifications under Section 504. Are teachers, principals and others aware of Section 504?

Not all students with asthma and/or allergies qualify for a 504 plan. A 504 is needed only if the condition significantly impacts the child’s ability to learn and accommodations need to be made. All school personnel are made aware when a 504 is needed and all must sign off on the accommodations in a care team meeting.

5) I spend some time in schools, and often see classrooms with no windows–is this appropriate? And can a parent do anything about this?

I am not aware if there are any actions regarding this topic.

6) How should teachers be monitoring access to inhalers? Or is that up to the nurse, the child or adolescent?

School nurses are typically responsible for children’s medicine in elementary school; however, it is important that all students understand they have the right to carry emergency medication with them at all times and use it as necessary. The federal law was passed in 2004 and subsequently all 50 states have also passed legislation allowing students to carry meds if the parent deems the child is able to manage their condition.

7) Big cities, like Los Angeles or New York, are a mess when it comes to air quality. Is there anything that can be done, like using air conditioners or fans?

Poor air quality is certainly a major concern for families with lung disease. HEPA air filters can help and should be changed routinely. Another key is to determine air quality daily and limit time outdoors or the time with windows open on poor air quality days. This information may be obtained at

8) Do you have a web site with more information?

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