International Corner: AGA’s Impact Around the World

October 01, 2013


Xavier Llor, MD, PhD

Chair, AGA International Committee

AGA’s Influence Around the World

AGA is committed to fostering relationships with gastroenterologists around the world and contributing to the education of the gastroenterology community worldwide. The extent and depth of this commitment is reflected in these three articles contributed by key representatives of GI societies in Turkey, Japan and Mexico. As education is a key need and the AGA is a leader in GI education, we are decisively strengthening our educational activities around the globe. Several examples are: 1) AGA participation in curriculum development and contribution with educational materials to the Ankara training center; 2) AGA contribution to the Inter-American Gastroenterology Association (AIGE) first online postgraduate continuing education program in Spanish/Portuguese/English; 3) taking the AGA Spring Postgraduate Course to places like South Africa. AGA will continue engaging in collaborations with local leaders and institutions worldwide so its educational and philanthropic mission can reach to as many professionals as possible.



Cihan Yurdaydin, MD

Secretary General, World Gastroenterology Organization (WGO)


Sedat Boyacioglu, MD

Director, Ankara Training Center


Nurdan Tozun

President, Turkish Society of Gastroenterology

Collaboration destined for success: The WGO-AGA-TSG Ankara Training Center

The World Gastroenterology Organization (WGO) is a federation of more than 100 national societies and four regional associations of gastroenterology representing more than 50,000 individual members worldwide. WGO remains an organization filling an important gap in the discipline of gastroenterology as a result of its unique mission to ensure optimal gastroenterology training throughout the world. This mission envisages a focus to the third world where gastroenterology training is either suboptimal or nonexistent.

Photos of the Ankara Training Center.

How can gastroenterology training be given to those in need — i.e. to physicians living in countries where this training is not available or not optimal? In an ideal world, space for such physicians would be available in well-respected academic institutions of the industrialized world. While this has been tried, it was not a popular solution given the many cultural and educational barriers that exist. WGO has put forth an alternative solution to the problem: training centers ideally located in developing countries with an adequate academic and health infrastructure and which are geographically and culturally close to countries where gastroenterology training is suboptimal or nonexistent. Under the leadership of James Toouli, WGO coordinator of education and training, WGO promoted this idea, leading to the development of 14 training centers on a global level (three in Africa, one in Europe, two in Asia, one in the Pacific islands and seven in South and Central America). Their curriculum is not the same, some of them are more endoscopically oriented with shorter training durations, such as the training centers in Chile and Italy, and some provide overall gastroenterology training for a duration of one year, such as the training centers in South Africa or Morocco.

We are in the process of inaugurating a new training center in Ankara, Turkey. Turkey has cultural and geographical ties with central Asian countries of the former Soviet Union, such as Azarbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, where formal gastroenterology training does not exist, making it an ideal location for a training center.

Preparations commenced more than a year ago at which time the Turkish Society of Gastroenterology (TSG) started meetings with biomedical industry (BMI) representatives and government organizations (including the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA)) who displayed great sympathy and interest in the project. Through financial support from BMI and promotional support from TIKA and other channels, we were able to build working space for the international trainees and advertise the Ankara Training Center across Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. We were surprised to receive 41 applications, and from there established a six-man jury to select the most suitable six trainees based on criteria such as age and availability of internal training. The six trainees, from Albania, Ukraine, Sudan, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Ghana, will start their GI training at university hospitals in Ankara in September 2013, and will receive accommodations and a monthly bursary of around $500. For those who do not speak Turkish, a three-month course at the University of Ankara was provided and four out of six applicants started the course at the beginning of June.

During the preparations, the possibility to have the backing of the AGA also emerged and this was welcomed with enthusiasm by the leadership of TSG. AGA will provide learning material for trainees, which will be available in the TSG building.

TSG is enthusiastic about this program and equally enthusiastic about the chance to co-partner with WGO and AGA. Exciting times are ahead of us and we look forward for a fruitful collaboration with the AGA.

Dr. Yurdaydin is on the speaker’s bureau or participated in the advisory board of Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gilead Sciences, Roche, Merck & Co, Inc. and Novartis Pharma. He also received a grant from Bristol-Myers Squibb. Dr. Yurdaydin currently serves as educational counciller for the European Association for the Study of the Liver.

Dr. Boyacioglu has no relevant conflicts to disclose.

Prof. Tozun has provided talks at industry-sponsored symposia for Gilead Sciences, Roche and AbbVie. She also serves as member of the public affairs committee of United European Gastroenterology and chairmen of the training and recognition committee of the European Board of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.



José L. Tamayo de la Cuesta, MD, AGAF

Torre Hospital Angeles Culiacán (Mexico)

The Close Bond Between AGA and Its Spanish Constituents

In august 1999, I became a member of the AGA. From a particular point of view, I can say that the benefits that you may receive from the AGA, being a member from any part of the world, can be multiple and varied.

Speaking about educational opportunities, having access to the monthly issues of the AGA Institute official journals (Gastroenterology and Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology) keeps you updated. Gastroenterology, the official journal of the AGA and the leading journal in the field, with an impact factor of 12.8, brings the reader up-to-date information on basic and clinical gastroenterology.

On the other hand, having the opportunity to attend Digestive Disease Week (DDW), the largest and most prestigious meeting in the world for GI professionals, every year is one of the tremendous benefits. DDW is jointly sponsored by four societies, including AGA, and is the best opportunity to learn about the latest advances in gastroenterology, GI endoscopy and hepatology. When David Peura, MD, AGAF, was the AGA president in 2005, we started a project to include Spanish translations for important DDW sessions. This program has carried on and continues today with a session named “The Best of DDW in Spanish.” This represents AGA’s interest in working with gastroenterologists from Spanish speaking countries such as Mexico.

Besides DDW and the AGA Institute official journals, international members enjoy special benefits and services, including diverse educational offerings, clinical resources, research funding, practice management expertise, professional development, advocacy and more.

I had the honor and privilege of being the president of the Mexican Association of Gastroenterology (AMG) in 2010, and for two other periods I was chair of the international committee. I had the pleasure of meeting and dealing with Peter R. Holt, MD, AGAF, and Xavier Llor, MD, PhD, as chairs of the AGA International Committee, and witnessed first-hand the interest that AGA has with societies and associations of gastroenterology not only from Mexico but from other countries as well. In the specific case of Mexico, the relations between AMG and AGA have been very close indeed, having agreements of educational collaboration and scientific support through which young Mexican gastroenterologists have had the opportunity to bring about training programs on different areas of gastroenterology and hepatology in various hospitals in the U.S. Additionally, distinguished members of the AGA have gladly attended our National Congress of Gastroenterology as distinguished professors and some of them awarded with the medal to merit, “Dr. Francisco Esquivel Rodriguez,” such as Emmet B. Keefe, MD, and Dr. Peura. This award is one of the highest honors of the AMG, and was given to them in recognition of their roles in establishing and fostering a mutually beneficial relationship between the two organizations.

For the past 18 years during the month of August, we have held a course in Mexico City called International Echoes (Ecos Internacionales) which brings attendees the most relevant advances in gastroenterology during a 2.5 day course. The course was originally called Echoes from the AGA due to the fact that the program is set by a selected group of Mexican gastroenterologists that attend DDW in the same year, taking the assignment to review a specific topic during the AGA congress. A special supplement of the Revista de Gastroenterología de México, the official journal of the AMG, covers all the scientific information regarding this course.

AGA is one of the largest and most prestigious medical associations of gastroenterology in the world, and I´m proud to be a member.

Dr. Tamayo is a speaker for Takeda, AstraZeneca, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and GlaxoSmithKline.



Tooru Shimosegawa, MD

Chair, International Committee of the Japanese Society of Gastroenterology

How we perceive the AGA and the Role it Plays in Japan

I am very honored to have an opportunity to introduce the Japanese Society of Gastroenterology (JSGE) and share some insight on our relationship with the AGA. The JSGE has a long history and the origin can be found in the Gastrointestinal Research Meeting founded by Shokichi Nagayo in 1898. The goal of our society is to promote and develop gastroenterology by encouraging basic and clinical research on digestive organs and diseases so as to contribute to the public welfare.

The JSGE is at present constituted of 32,667 members and is steered by President Kentaro Sugano, 24 executive board officers, 17 advisory officers and 135 council members. Dr. Sugano has reformed the JSGE actively since he took the position in 2009, and successfully shifted the JSGE in 2013 from the former public service corporation to the current general corporation. He is enthusiastic in reforming the JSGE to an active body and making it one of societies leading gastroenterology in the world. He accomplished the compilation of the guidelines for six gastrointestinal diseases (peptic ulcers, GERD, liver cirrhosis, Crohn’s disease, gallstones, chronic pancreatitis) and is now driving forward to create another three guidelines for FD/IBS, NASH and colon polyps. He is also ardent in the internationalization of JSGE and has established three English sessions at the JSGE annual meetings: the International Forum, the joint meeting of the JSGE and AGA, and the International Topic Conference. He places special importance on cooperating with AGA for promotion of education, stimulation of research works and improvement of clinical practices in gastroenterology. In this regard, we appreciate the great contributions from Deborah Proctor, MD, AGAF, who has served on the AGA Institute Education and Training Committee and as chair of the AGA Women’s Committee, among other leadership roles in the AGA, for her lecture on competence-based education as well as for providing us with materials of post-graduate education in the U.S. (picture). Moreover, every year, more than 6,000 Japanese gastroenterologists attend AGA’s annual meeting, DDW, in the U.S. and that number is increasing.

One of the representative cooperative works between JSGE and AGA is the joint meeting, which started in 2004 with Emmet B. Keeffe, MD, and Prof. Kenji Fujiwara as the presidents. The joint meeting has been held by the host of JSGE and AGA alternately in Japan and in the U.S. every year except for 2008 and 2011 (due to the Great East Japan Earthquake). This year the 8th joint meeting, Liver Fibrosis and Cirrhosis: Pathogenesis and Treatment, was held at the Castle Park Hotel in Kagoshima, Japan, on March 22, during the 99th annual JSGE meeting with Profs. Kazuhiko Koike and Don C. Rockey, MD, as moderators. Dr. Rockey and Robert F. Schwabe, MD, were invited as guest speakers from the AGA and Prof. Norifumi Kawada, Prof. Shuji Terai and Prof. emeritus Yoshiro Niitsu from the JSGE. It was a wonderful and fruitful meeting with hot discussions, which encouraged young Japanese investigators by sharing the exciting experience. With great support from the AGA International Committee and its former and current chairmen and members, we have fostered an ideal circumstance for the development of both societies. We hope to continue and strengthen the intimate relationship through various events and by exchanging the latest information.

We will mark the 100th memorial anniversary of the JSGE in 2014. The special events are prepared for the 100th annual meeting of the JSGE, which will be held in Tokyo from April 23 through 26 with Professor Choitsu Sakamoto of the Nippon Medical School as the meeting president. We hope that the anniversary will recall the long history between JSGE and AGA, and continue the coordinated development of both societies in the future.

AGA leader, Deborah Proctor, MD, AGAF, lectures on competence-based education at the JSGE-AGA joint meeting.

Dr. Shimosegawa has no conflicts to disclose.

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