Commentary

The Best of DDW 2022: Feel the history


 

“The Best of DDW” elicits in the minds of most readers a compilation of the most important clinical and scientific content presented at DDW.

But I am not referring to that.

The “Best of DDW 2022” was the American Gastroenterological Association Presidential Plenary Session thanks to the humanity and vision of outgoing AGA President John Inadomi, MD.1 I sat in the audience, misty eyed, as each presenter addressed issues that strike deep into our humanity – the social determinants of health that have festered for far too long, leading to intolerable differences in health outcomes based on accidents of birth, and amplified by racism.

Dr. Uri Ladabaum

As the table on stage slowly filled in, an amazing picture took shape. A majority of the speakers were Black gastroenterologists and hepatologists, and among them many were young women. As I watched the video of a group of young Black gastroenterologists and hepatologists reaching out to the community, I asked myself “Has anything like this ever happened at a major national medical association meeting in the United States? Ever?” And then it occurred to me: “And just imagine, this exactly 2 days before the 2-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd.”

The plenary session happened on May 23, and I was conscious about the dates because I will never forget that George Floyd was killed on May 25, 2020 – my 55th birthday. The juxtaposition of his death and my birthday 2 years ago shook me profoundly, prompting me to write down my reflections and my hope that, in the national reactions that followed, we were seeing the beginning of true change.2 Two years later, despite our national divisions and serious challenges, I have reasons for hope.

On May 24, I ran into a colleague who was a Black woman. I have stopped being afraid to bring up previously untouchable subjects. I asked her what she thought about the remarkable AGA Plenary. She said she was glad that she is here to see it – that her parents never got the chance.

I admitted to her that I often ask myself what more I could and should be doing. I’m trying to do what I can in recruitment, education, in my personal life. What more? She said that one thing we really need is for people who look like me to amplify the message.

So here it is: Readers, listen to the plenary talks if you were not there. At minimum, behold the following line-up of speakers and topics. Feel the history.

This was the Best of DDW 2022:

  • Julius Friedenwald Recognition of Timothy Wang. – John Inadomi.
  • Presidential Address: Don’t Talk: Act. The relevance of DEI to gastroenterologists and hepatologists and the imperative for action. – John Inadomi.
  • AGA Equity Project: Accomplishments and what lies ahead. – Byron L. Cryer, Sandra M. Quezada.
  • The genesis and goals of the Association of Black Gastroenterologists and Hepatologists. – Sophie M. Balzora.
  • Increasing racial and ethnic diversity in clinical trials: What we need to do. – Monica Webb Hooper.
  • Reducing disparities in colorectal cancer. – Rachel Blankson Issaka.
  • Reducing disparities in liver disease. – Lauren Nephew.
  • Reducing disparities in IBD. – Fernando Velayos.

Uri Ladabaum, MD, MS, is with the division of gastroenterology and hepatology in the department of medicine at Stanford (Calif.) University. He reports serving on the advisory board for UniversalDx and Lean Medical and as a consultant for Medtronic, Clinical Genomics, Guardant Health, and Freenome. Dr. Ladabaum made these comments during the AGA Institute Presidential Plenary at the annual Digestive Disease Week®.

References

1. Inadomi JM. Gastroenterology. 2022 Jun;162(7):1855-7.

2. Ladabaum U. Ann Intern Med. 2020 Dec 1;173(11):938-9.

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