Alessio Fasano, MD, came to the US from Italy looking to expand his horizons beyond celiac disease. Instead, he became a leader in the treatment, research, and education of celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders.
When Alessio Fasano, MD, came to the US from Italy more than 2 decades ago, he had had enough. His main reason for the journey was to expand his horizons beyond celiac disease.
“I was sick and tired of almost exclusively dealing with this disease,” Fasano recalls. “That was my professional life in Italy. And I found it exciting to come to the US and open up my clinical and scientific interests.”
But things didn’t turn out as planned, fortunately. Today, Fasano is a world-renowned pediatric gastroenterologist and research scientist who has become a leader in the treatment, research, and education of celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders.
Ground in tradition
Fasano completed his medical training at the University of Naples, a place he describes as one of the sanctuaries of celiac disease.
“In Europe during the past few centuries, there are spots that are focused on specific medical interests,” he explains. “Naples was focused on celiac disease. This was a pediatric condition at the time, with GI disorders, and they had the expertise to understand some of the intimate mechanisms with the disease. They were the pioneers, at the forefront of the disease.”
But Fasano wanted a change. He moved to the US with no intention to continue working with celiac disease. But what struck him almost immediately was that celiac disease did not appear to exist in the US. He was told it was rare, and then experienced the phenomenon firsthand as nearly a year passed without a single case presenting itself in his clinic.
At the time, the incidence rate of celiac disease in Europe was 1 in 300, but in the US it was 1 in 10,000.