A Gastroenterologist is a physician with dedicated training and unique experience in the management of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and liver. Gastroenterology is the study of the normal function and diseases of the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts and liver. It includes common and important conditions such as colon polyps and cancer, hepatitis, gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn), peptic ulcer disease, colitis, gallbladder and biliary tract disease, nutritional problems, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and pancreatitis. In essence, all normal activity and disease of the digestive organs are part of the study of Gastroenterology.
A Gastroenterologist must first complete 6 years of medical school and then general physician training for 3-4 years, followed by advanced specialisation in gastroenterology, which is an additional 3 years. Dr Swan and Dr Prideaux then both underwent further training which for Dr Swan included national and international training in advanced interventional endoscopy and for Dr Prideaux included a PhD and then an overseas experience in inflammatory bowel disease.
Gastroenterologists receive dedicated training in endoscopy (upper endoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, and colonoscopy) by expert instructors. Endoscopy is the use of narrow, flexible lighted tubes with built-in video cameras, to visualise the inside of the intestinal tract. Gastroenterology trainees also learn how to perform advanced endoscopic procedures such as polypectomy (removal of colon polyps) and haemostasis (injection or cautery to stop bleeding). Importantly, Gastroenterologists learn how to properly interpret the findings and biopsy results of these studies in order to make appropriate recommendations to treat conditions and/or prevent cancer.
The training of all gastroenterologists in Australia is overseen by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians whose role it is to certify those deemed fit for independent specialist practice.
Note: This information was adapted from the American College of Gastroenterology website.