Dr. Charles Schuler – Tackling the ‘Unseen Epidemic’

January 21, 2021

Charles Schuler, IV, MD, Assistant Professor in the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, graduated from the Allergy and Clinical Immunology Fellowship Training Program at Michigan Medicine, where Dr. Schuler also received his medical degree and completed his residency. In addition, he is a member of the Michigan Medicine Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center. As an allergist-immunologist, Dr. Schuler cares for patients of all ages for a wide range of conditions including food and drug allergies, asthma, allergic rhinitis, aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease, and venom allergy.

Dr. Schuler’s research efforts focus on food allergies where he hopes to better understand how and why they occur, and to find better ways to test for them. In addition, he is currently engaged in several COVID-19 studies that include looking at antibody production and longevity against COVID-19.

With more than 50 million Americans reporting that they experience some type of allergy every year, Dr. Schuler is ardent in discovering better ways to diagnose, treat, and manage allergies (and other immunologic disorders) to improve quality of life for his patients.

Behind the Scenes with Dr. Charles Schuler

Dr. Charles Schuler

What is your research about?

I study food anaphylaxis, or food allergy, utilizing samples taken from patients undergoing oral food challenges. Food challenges are when someone with a possible food allergy eats the food while they are with an allergist in the office so that the allergist can see the reaction. These food challenges are the gold standard test for food allergy – to observe patients actually having the food reaction and then treating it. This is a critical opportunity to understand how and why food allergies happen.

Dr. Schuler was one of three recipients of the Michigan Food Allergy Research Accelerator Program (M-FARA) Pilot Research Grant in 2019 for his research project, “Investigating Biomarkers and Mechanisms of Food Anaphylaxis”.

Why are you interested in this area of research?

Food allergy is a field with many unanswered questions, which means there are still many ways we can improve patient care. Science is a wonderful tool to address this and we need to understand better how and why food allergies occur. Further, food allergies are increasing in children and adults, so the problem is becoming more widespread, not less. This has been called an “unseen epidemic.” Finally, I have multiple family members with food allergies, so I have a personal stake in this, which drives me forward as well.

What is the ultimate goal of your research?

Current food allergy testing methods (things like skin and blood food allergy testing), have high false positive rates (up to 30-50%). The only truly accurate way to diagnose a food allergy is to conduct a food challenge to see the reaction; however, this process is very unpleasant and can even be risky for patients. Therefore, I seek to discover more about how and why food allergies happen so that I can validate and optimize better ways to test for food allergies without needing food challenges.

Tell us more about the research work you are conducting on COVID-19.

We are conducting a study of COVID-related antibody production among people with and without prior COVID-19, which includes many Michigan Medicine healthcare workers. We have demonstrated that point-of-care testing for COVID antibodies is accurate and that nearly all people with confirmed COVID-19 make antibodies. Our first manuscript is in the submission process. We are now evaluating the longevity of antibodies against COVID-19 after the initial infection, to see if antibody levels do in fact decrease over time. We are also following our subjects to see if antibodies make people immune to future infection.

What are your clinical interests and what about them appeals to you?

I am particularly interested in food adverse reactions such as food allergy and FPIES (food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome), asthma and aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease, and venom allergy.

Through my training as an allergist/immunologist, I was exposed to all of these conditions in my patients. Many of the conditions we treat have a great deal of unanswered questions and I am particularly drawn to fields that lack simple answers to patient diseases.

What does a typical day look like for you?

If I am in clinic, I spend a full or half day either at the Domino’s Farms or the Northville Health Center allergy clinics seeing patients, conducting food challenges, and overseeing allergen immunotherapy. If I am on call, I will go meet one of our allergy fellows in the afternoon or evening at the hospital and round on any consults we need to see. On research days, I split my time between Domino’s Farms and the Biomedical Science Research Building (BSRB). I have also worked from home, when it's appropriate, during the pandemic.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Most recently, I am quite proud of the paper I published this year in Allergy - “Inhibition of Uric Acid or IL-1β Ameliorates Respiratory Syncytial Virus Immunopathology and Development of Asthma”, which was the result of my time in the lab of Dr. Nicholas Lukacs during my fellowship.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering specializing in allergy and clinical immunology?

Do it. It’s a wonderful field. We have long-term relationships with patients, we offer definitive, sometimes curative therapies that can change people’s lives, and yet there is still so much to explore and learn in the field.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love helping patients, both through direct patient care and indirectly, by doing the science that will lead to new diagnostic modalities, new therapies, and answers to questions that plague people’s lives.

Is there a moment when you knew you had chosen the right career?

I do not think I have experienced a particular moment where everything “clicked” into place; rather, I have felt a gradually increasing certainty that has built up over time. I am so happy to be an allergist and I cannot imagine another career better suited to me now.

Who has inspired you the most?

There are too many people to name one individual. I truly stand on the shoulders of many giants.

How do you balance your work and personal life?

I have times of the day when I am only focused on one aspect of my life, barring an emergency. For example, from dinner to my son’s bedtime, I only answer truly urgent emails and avoid doing anything aside from spending time with my family.

What five words best describe you?

Optimistic, driven, meticulous, inquisitive, and creative.

More about Dr. Schuler…

You can find all of his publications and read more about his research at Michigan Research Experts.

You can keep up with what he's doing on twitter @DrChaseSchuler.