Student paper diagnoses Professor’s daughter’s illness


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – One mother wondered for years what was going on with her daughter. It was not until one of her students wrote a paper that helped diagnose her issue.

Alicia Elam is an Associate Professor at Augusta University. In 2017 Elam and student Allison Miller worked on a research paper for Miller’s masters project.

“Looking at what she was discussing. The EOE, I hadn’t known what it was, hadn’t heard of it and I had not dealt with it,” says Elam.

As Elam worked to edit Miller’s paper, she realized the symptoms Miller wrote about were the same ones her daughter had. After almost three years of trying to figure it out, Elam finally had an answer.

“Eosinophilic Esophagitis,” says Elam.

Since it’s something that we cannot see with the naked eye, I asked her to break down what it means.

“The esophagus is constantly breaking down because it’s being exposed to this allergic response,” explains Elam.

Something that is difficult to diagnose without an endoscopy, under anesthesia. Over the years Elam’s daughter, Ally, has undergone four endoscopies.

“I don’t think it really has phased her that much. She’s 14. She was 12 when we started with this. I think she’s been a trooper,” says Elam.

If the mouth is the gateway to the body, then the esophagus is the highway for food and drinks to reach the stomach. That’s where Ally’s trouble started.

“Every time she ate, she coughed. There are a couple times you can have a severe debilitating stomach ache. That’s another symptom. Most people can vomit after eating but what stood out to me the most was a lot of times when she would cough she would say, ‘Mommy, it feels like it’s going down the wrong pipe’.”

Allison Miller, who wrote the paper, works as a Physician’s Assistant at Children’s Hospital of Atlanta. Recently her research was published in The Clinical Advisor.

How do you feel about your story being a blueprint for other people?

“I think it’s a blessing, even if it’s just one person. It brings more awareness to this condition.”

Her daughter Ally is still receiving treatment but she says her recovery looks much better.

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