Dr Ian Forgacs - BSG President
I have been President of the BSG since June 2014 and I am immensely proud to lead an organisation that has nearly 4000 members, all of whom in one way or another have declared a commitment to gastroenterology - a specialty that has held a fascination for me since my first few months as a medical student.
I have always felt that it has been to my tremendous advantage that I decided to be a gastroenterologist as early as my second term in medical school. I know the curriculum has changed quite a bit since my day but we were taught physiology really well, and gut physiology in particular was taught in a manner that, shall I just say, I found so inspiring that to be a gastroenterologist was what I decided to be right there and then. Of course, that meant I could spend a lot of time in medical school on what I decided that I needed to know rather than what they tried to teach me. My knowledge of orthopaedics, ENT and indeed, most of non-GI surgery is rudimentary. However, I think my teachers thought that, because I knew so much about one specific area, I must in reality be very bright.
I hope that if I had my time again, I would make the same career choice. (I should add here that my quasi-Buddhist wife thinks that when I am reincarnated, I ought to consider myself fortunate to return as anything more sophisticated than a Helicobacter pylori). By comparison with the other major medical disciplines, gastroenterology is a young specialty and what has made it grow so fast in only one generation has been the development of endoscopy. Endoscopy has morphed from a mainly diagnostic procedure to one that is increasingly a technique for delivering treatment. There are some gastroenterologists who are so much interventional endoscopists that they are almost surgeons without a knife. They see endoscopy as the end rather than a means to an end. I have always been a clinical gastroenterologist first and endoscopist second. It's unimportant whether you are a hollow organ or solid organ sort of person (in other words are more interested in the gi tract or the liver) as you will have to be trained very broadly before you complete your specialist training.
However, technophilic you are, such skills will be of little use when you are trying to help patients through functional problems such as dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome. It is quite impossible to look after patients with complex chronic problems such as inflammatory bowel disease without highly developed clinical skills and an empathic bedside manner. The major change in managing patients with gastrointestinal disease in the forty years since I qualified has been in the technology of diagnosis - yes through the endoscope but also because of the amazing developments in diagnostic radiology. It is highly likely that the application of basic laboratory methods and clinical medicine (translational research) will transform the practice of clinical gastroenterology, more so in the next thirty years than ever before. You guys are so lucky to be starting out at such a time.