AGA Programs

The future of training: AGA EndoscopyNow Fellows Forum recap



The virtual space has created new opportunities for gastroenterology fellows, but direct conversations about education and career development on the national level have been limited. On Oct. 16, 2021, the American Gastroenterological Association and EndoscopyNow hosted an online Fellows Forum titled “Navigating New Frontiers of Training in Gastroenterology.” Close to 100 fellows attended and had the chance to listen to discussions from a national panel of faculty with expertise in medical education, ask candid questions, and share experiences in breakout rooms specific to their year of training. Reading materials were also provided, which are cited throughout this article. What follows is a rundown of the discussion and points of particular interest for fellows.

Joy J. Liu, MD. Gastroenterology fellow, Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, Chicago

Dr. Joy J. Liu

What do fellows value?

Dr. Laura Raffals kicked off the event by asking fellows to create word clouds related to their challenges (“Balance” was the most common answer) and joys (“Family”). These answers underscore that, when faced with pressures to be 100% at work and home, it is human connection, particularly family, that sustains us. Fellows, however, worried that spending time with family conflicted with spending time on GI training and that they would be perceived as “that person who always leaves early.”1

Attendees discussed that “there are only 168 hours in a week,” (time is a zero-sum game), and it is important to be self-aware and honest about one’s personal values and commit the commensurate time and energy to those values. Consider personal development exercises.2 Faculty have a crucial role in coaching fellows on time management based on personal values.3

Has COVID-19 reduced fellows’ endoscopic skills?

One brave attendee asked: Is this generation of fellows “weaker” because of limited scoping during the pandemic? Faculty discussed that, even prepandemic, it was “not all about quantity; the quality of exposure matters just as much.” From their perspective, prepared, goal-directed, and helpful fellows would maximize learning during endoscopy blocks (see below). Lawrence Schiller, MD, providing the long view, reassured fellows that with a proactive attitude it all evens out in the end.

Fellows reflected that, although social isolation and burnout were rampant, some individuals stepped up to do extra work, supported colleagues with personal or family health issues, and scoped COVID-positive patients if others could not. In future years, the pandemic will be seen as a case study for those in leadership positions. The decisions that health systems, administrators, and providers made will be remembered, as well as how algorithms for “practice as usual” changed.4

What fellows can do to maximize endoscopic learning (attendings’ perspective):

  • Know the patient before the case. Prior endoscopy reports, patient comorbidities, and medical history including details like anticoagulation use or issues with anesthesia.
  • Help the work flow (and reduce the attending’s stress level). Consent patients and complete preprocedure paperwork if possible.
  • Come into the scope block with a plan. Example: “I want to get to the cecum. The attending can withdraw, and I will take out polyps we find.”
  • Ask about decision-making. Example: “Why did you choose to place a clip over that polypectomy site?” or “Why did you choose that instrument and not the other?”
  • Give feedback on problematic behavior. Attendings that treat fellows like burdens and undermine fellow scope time should be reported. Fellows may be concerned about being perceived as a “troublemaker,” but discussing these situations with program directors is a civic duty.


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