Advancing the Science and Practice of Gastroenterology Worldwide
Rolf Hultcrantz, MD
John Atherton, MD
Chair, UEGF Scientific Committee
The United European Gastroenterology Federation (UEGF), the voice of European gastroenterology, is dedicated to “improving the quality of care delivered to patients and steadily increasing gastroenterological knowledge.” In this issue, the current UEGF president and scientific committee chair share their perspectives on what the federation provides members in practice, training and research, as well as what makes its annual meeting world class.
In 1988, the various European associations and societies active in gastroenterology and its allied fields formed an umbrella organization, the UEGF. The first goal was to establish a joint annual conference in Europe, which would be comparable to the best meetings in the world. To this purpose, a council was set up with representatives of seven major European societies that acted as founding members. In 1992, the conference project came to fruition in the form of the first United European Gastroenterology Week (UEGW). Over the years, several other associations joined the UEGF as associate members, making a total of 16 federated associations. Through one of its founding members, the Association of National European and Mediterranean Societies of Gastroenterology, the UEGF has close contact with 43 national associations in Europe, making it a truly European federation.
The UEGF today is a professional non-profit medical federation comprising all the major European societies with an interest in diseases of the digestive system, including in the esophagus, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, small intestine and colon. The European societies that make up the federation represent GI and liver physicians, endoscopists, surgeons, nutritionists, primary care specialists, radiologists, oncologists and scientists. The UEGF is the most comprehensive organization of its kind in the world and its affiliated societies represent more than 22,000 European specialists. It has expanded well beyond its original remit — the UEGW meeting is now only one of its many activities — and through its constituent societies, it now coordinates many activities in European gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy, GI surgery, and GI and liver science.
The structure and administration of the UEGF is democratic. Its highest decision-making body is its general assembly, which has representatives from its 16 federated associations and national societies. The general assembly elects a council and an executive committee that are the managing and operating bodies running the federation’s business. They are assisted by a professional secretariat based in Vienna. The council and executive committee have formed the following four committees: the Scientific Committee, the Education Committee, the Public Affairs Committee and the Future Trends Committee.
In order to guarantee the high standards for the UEGW’s scientific program, the Scientific Committee subjects abstracts submitted to the UEGW to a rigorous process of selection. The committee also designs the invited parts of the meeting and advises on other GI and liver scientific matters. All societies that make up the UEGF have representation on the committee, resulting in a comprehensive UEGW program without overlaps, which is beneficial to clinicians, academics and researchers alike.
The UEGF Education Committee has established several successful program formats of its own, which focus on varying subspecialties from both scientific and clinical perspectives. The UEGF training support program comprises long-term partnerships of up to three years duration with particularly promising educational activities of member societies or other professional groups. The newly launched UEGF online learning platform — Online Learning in Gastroenterology — delivers state-of-the-art educational material, including e-courses in the field of gastroenterology created by specialists from across Europe and beyond.
In order to disseminate knowledge and to make gastrointestinal diseases a priority on the European health agenda, the UEGF has established a Public Affairs Committee. It serves as an interface between the world of gastroenterology and health-care politicians, the general public, patient organizations, other medical associations and the medical industry. A recent achievement has been to get the European Parliament to actively promote colorectal cancer screening in the member states of the European Union.
The Future Trends Committee was initiated to examine and set future agendas and to characterize important innovation in research and clinical practice pertaining to all areas of gastroenterology and related fields. Its purpose is to assess the impact these developments will have on patients, physicians and nurses in the coming years, and to advise UEGF decision makers on future action.
— Rolf Hultcrantz, MD
Author disclosure: Dr. Hultcrantz has provided lectures under the direct sponsorship of Merck Sharp & Dohme and Sanofi-Aventis.
The UEGW Meeting
The UEGW is the premier meeting of the UEGF and is held in a major European city each year in late fall. Recent venues have been Paris, Vienna, London and Barcelona, and UEGW 2011 will be held from Oct. 22 to 26 in Stockholm, Sweden. Attendance has been increasing in recent years, and last year we attracted a total
of 14,000 people from all around the world, particularly from Europe and
Asia. The main meeting takes place from Monday to Wednesday, and is preceded by the UEGF Postgraduate Course on Saturday and Sunday.
The postgraduate course has plenary sessions at the beginning and end (this year on IBD and acute pancreatitis) and four parallel courses in the middle: medical gastroenterology, surgical gastroenterology, hepatology and endoscopy. These are arranged so that attendees can move freely between sessions. The postgraduate course is pitched at the level of cutting-edge management and covers areas of changing practice; it is aimed at established clinicians and senior trainees. The endoscopy course includes a day of live interactive endoscopy teaching using feeds from a major European endoscopy center. Other courses also use highly interactive formats, including keypad voting.
The Monday morning plenary session is stand-alone and features the best UEGW has to offer. It is a fast-paced balance between invited talks and the top original research presentations. The UEGF research prize winner presents briefly here.
The UEGW invited program of parallel symposia has traditionally been very strong, particularly with regard to the latest advances in clinical management. We invite the top experts from all over the world to speak at the meeting, including many from Asia and America, and we cover a comprehensive range of topics in gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy and GI surgery. The meeting uses a variety of formats, including live endoscopy all day Tuesday, tandem talks (for example scientist and clinician, or physician and surgeon), debates and case-based management discussions. We also give audiences every chance to interact with speakers through encouraging questioning and debate and, in some rooms, using keypads or texting via mobile phone. Alongside the symposia is excellent hands-on endoscopy and ultrasound training.
Recently, we have added more parallel sessions on basic and translational science to the invited program, including dedicated single-subject science workshops and a topic-based meeting-within-a-meeting initiative called “Today’s science; tomorrow’s medicine.” This meeting of the top international basic and clinician scientists working in a specific field is open to all UEGW registrants; last year, the topic was stem cells, and this year, it is bacteria in digestive health and chronic disease.
The biggest recent advance in the UEGW has been the improved quality of the original research presented at the meeting; this is now truly world class. Last year, we had 3,481 abstract submissions and accepted 64 percent of them. A total of 481 abstracts were presented as oral-free papers and 1,650 as posters. Our original research sessions are exciting and very interactive. Some of the best abstracts are integrated into invited symposia, and many abstract sessions have introductory overviews from expert chairs.
In 2011, there will be even more prizes for original research, and the top five abstracts will win 10,000 euros each to contribute towards the further research of the first author.
The UEGW encourages youth and awards travel grants by covering expenses to 200 young clinicians and 140 young basic scientists. It also sponsors national scholars presenting high-quality research from countries in and outside Europe, and runs a competition for about ten rising stars — the best young established researchers with the promise of becoming the next research leaders.
The UEGW is a dynamic, friendly, vibrant and interactive meeting, featuring the best GI and liver medicine and science from Europe and around the world. Check out the 2011 Stockholm program at http://uegw11.uegf.org/. Perhaps we’ll meet there!
Author disclosure: Dr. Atherton served as an occasional paid consultant to Axcan Pharma and Danone. He is also the chairman of the United European Gastroenterology Foundation’s Scientific Committee.