From the AGA Journals

AGA Section: Gastroenterology and hepatology training milestones



Updated milestones for professional development aim to help specialists in gastroenterology and transplant hepatology achieve knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will help them establish their own practices.

Dr. Brijen J. Shah chief medical officer, Mount Sinai Queens, director of quality and patient safety education, Mount Sinai Health System, associate professor of medicine/GI and geriatrics/palliative medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, N.Y.

Dr. Brijen J. Shah

The new version, Milestones 2.0, represents the latest milestones created by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, including six core competencies developed initially in 1999: Patient care (PC), medical knowledge (MK), interpersonal and communication skills (ICS), professionalism (PROF), systems-based practice (SBP), and practice-based learning and improvement (PBLI).

In 2013, the Oversight Working Network, working with gastroenterology societies, developed a companion document of 13 entrustable professional activities (EPAs) aimed at gastroenterologists: These include management of various individual disorders such as liver or pancreatic diseases, performance of specific diagnostic procedures, and managing patient adverse events and nutritional status.

Milestones 1.0 encountered some resistance from the graduate education community. Too many of the milestones were deemed to be too vague or were described using language that was too complex. Some viewed the milestones as burdensome, and a review suggested hundreds of different ways to describe ICS and PROF, leading to confusion.

In an effort to improve matters, the ACGME made some changes. The first involved standardizing milestones used for ICS, PROF, SBP, and PBLI so that they could be used across disciplines. They also developed PC and MK milestones tailored to each specialty.

In the latest article on the topic, appearing in Gastroenterology, the authors led by Brijen J. Shah, MD, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, outlined a second group of changes, which included development of specialty-specific milestones aimed at gastroenterology and transplant hepatology.


The new set of milestones includes 17 for gastroenterology and 16 for transplant hepatology.

There are four PC milestones, which include taking a history and conducting patient examinations, patient management, and two more related to cognitive and technical components of procedures. The MK milestones include competency in gastrointestinal and liver diseases (MK1) and medical reasoning (MK2). These milestones are different from the internal medicine milestones met by graduating residents. MK1 includes specialty-specific disorders and diagnostic, therapeutic, and pharmacologic options for treatment or prevention. MK2 encompasses differential diagnoses and how cognitive bias can influence decision-making, a new concept introduced in Milestones 2.0.

Because the skills represented in the four other core milestones (ICS, PROF, SBP, and PBLI) are “common across specialties,” the authors drafted subcompetencies for these four areas with “harmonized” language for use by every specialty. These harmonized milestones were then tailored for each specialty. An important change occurred with SBP because transplant hepatology poses unique challenges in this domain. They ultimately split SBP into two, with SBP1 focusing on unique liver transplant regulatory requirements and SBP2 covering organ allocation and Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score exceptions.

Public response

The researchers sought out comment on the updated milestones from program directors and coordinators, and published on the ACGME website, and members of the working group also shared it with faculty, fellows, and specialty societies. Overall, 48 respondents assessed “whether the updated milestone provided a realistic measure of knowledge, skills, and behavior; whether it discriminated between different levels of competency; whether the respondent knew how to assess the milestone effectively; and whether the Supplemental Guide was a useful resource in understanding the milestone.” They rated each on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). They could also provide free-text comments.

Respondents agreed that milestones realistically measure progression (mean, 3.49), could distinguish levels of competency (mean, 3.41), could be used accurately (mean, 3.43), and were explained well by the supplemental guide (mean, 3.42). No trends that suggested a need for additional action were found in the free-text comments.

Role of milestones

The milestones can be used to develop learning objectives, which in turn can be worked into clinical rotations and learning activities. For instance, the inpatient consult rotation could be used to address the SBP2 (organ allocation/MELD score exemptions), SBP3 (the physician’s role in the health care system), PBLI1 (evidence-based medicine), and some of the PC (patient care) milestones.

The milestones should not be used as an assessment method by supervisors, the authors cautioned, but rather should be used by the Clinical Competency Committee to assess trainees at various time points. The committee may combine milestones with direct observation, chart-simulated recall, multiple evaluations, and other factors to determine a trainee’s progress.

An institution’s program directors can use the milestones to adjust curriculum development and ensure that any gaps are filled. Milestones can be used at multiple times throughout training: When trainees repeat rotations, they can be used to determine year-to-year progress. Trainees who are not progressing adequately may be identified earlier on, then offered supplemental learning opportunities. On the other hand, trainees who exceed expectations may be offered additional opportunities.

Trainees can also use milestones in self-directed learning, though they should work with the program director and clinical faculty to identify gaps in their learning as well as any deficiencies.

The authors have no relevant financial disclosures.

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