Hindsight is 20/20: What physicians wish they knew before specializing in GI

Any career path can hold surprises. Looking back, two gastroenterologists share what they would have liked to know before choosing to specialize in GI.

Ask a Gastroenterologist is a weekly series of questions posed to GI physicians around the country on business and clinical issues affecting the field of gastroenterology. We invite all gastroenterologists to submit responses.

Next week's question: What advice do you have for gastroenterologists who want to switch from hospital employment to independent practice?

Please submit responses to Carrie Pallardy at cpallardy@beckershealthcare.com by Thursday, August 29, at 5 p.m. CST.

David Clarke, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Gastroenterology Emeritus, Oregon Health & Science University (Portland, Ore.): Looking back three decades to my training years I wish I had known that in 30 percent of my patients symptoms were linked to psychosocial problems including current life stresses, the prolonged effects of childhood adversity and unrecognized cases of depression, PTSD and anxiety. I also wish I had known how many mental health professionals lacked experience uncovering and treating these problems in people whose chief complaint was a physical symptom. Had I known these things, I would have been better prepared for this group of patients. They might have suffered less while I spent several years gradually learning how to help them. It is my hope that anyone reading this today who finds themselves in a similar situation can get a head start looking at my website (www.stressillness.com) or book (They Can't Find Anything Wrong!).

Rajeev Nayar, MD, gastroenterologist, Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center (Zion, Ill.): There is nothing I wish I knew before specializing in this area. When choosing gastroenterology as my area of focus, what I loved most was the complexity of this area of human anatomy. Given the multiple organs that make up the GI tract and how they coordinate and respond with each other and the body, I knew this was an area that I could contribute greatly to. I love the challenges, but mostly I love being able to bring comfort and peace of mind to my patients. This is a great field, and if you're just considering whether it is right for you, we are in exciting times with new methods to care for patients continually being introduced.

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