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The Fostering Opportunities Resulting in Workforce and Research Diversity (FORWARD) Program supports physician-scientists from underrepresented populations, building on AGA’s longstanding commitment to advancing diversity in the biomedical science research workforce.

The FORWARD program is supported by the NIDDK of the NIH (award number R25DK118761).

Advancing equity in GI

Now accepting applications

The FORWARD Program, an AGA leadership pathway, prepares physician-scientists from underrepresented populations for a successful career in academic medicine with research and management skills training from top GI investigators and research skills experts, leadership development partnering with an executive coach, and a community of leaders and peers with similar backgrounds to learn from and share experiences with.

Applications for the 2023-25 cohort are now closed.

Applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Fellows and early career health care professionals from NIH-defined underrepresented groups focused on digestive diseases in academic institutions as assistant professors or instructors within the first five years of their faculty appointment or trainees in their GI fellowships. Those eligible to apply include:
    • Physicians (MD or DO), including gastroenterologists and gastrointestinal or bariatric surgeons.
    • PhDs in Basic, Clinical, Translational, Epidemiologic, Population or Social Services.
  • Active participation is crucial to the programs’ success; therefore, applicants must commit to attend the following key events throughout the program:
    • Program Kick-Off and Academic Skills Workshop – March 15-17, 2024
    • AGA Leadership Summit – FORWARD Fall Program – September 2024
    • In-person shadow experience at mentors’ institutions determined by the mentee and mentors’ schedules
    • FORWARD Program – Spring Retreat – April 2025
    • FORWARD Graduation – May 2025

Top five reasons to apply

  • Grow your mentoring and mentee relationship skills with senior and peer mentors.

  • Network with fellow underrepresented population leaders who are shaping the future of academic medicine.

  • Develop leadership skills that will help you advance in academic medicine and AGA governance with executive coaching and experience-building opportunities.

  • Strengthen your research and management skills with training from esteemed researchers in an ongoing learning environment.

  • Polish your grant and manuscript writing skills with active feedback and support from top GI investigators.

Hear from our previous scholars

Key dates


  • Maria T Abreu, MD, AGAF
  • Kim Barrett, PhD, AGAF
  • C. Richard Boland, MD, AGAF 
  • John Carethers, MD, AGAF
  • Jennifer Christie, MD, AGAF
  • Gail Hecht, MD, MS, AGAF
  • Courtney Houchen, MD
  • Anthony Kalloo, MD
  • Fasiha Kanwal, MD, MSHS, AGAF
  • David Lieberman, MD, AGAF 
  • Anna Lok, MD
  • Jorge Marrero, MD, MS, AGAF
  • Jesus Rivera-Nieves, MD, AGAF
  • Gary Wu, MD, AGAF


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Learn about the  AGA FORWARD mentors preparing the next cohort of physician-scientists from underrepresented populations for a successful career in academic medicine. 

Program chairs

Byron Cryer, MD

Byron Cryer, MD

Chief of Internal Medicine
Ralph Tompsett Endowed Chair in Medicine
Baylor University Medical Center

Sandra Quezada, MD, MS, AGAF

Sandra Quezada, MD, MS, AGAF

Professor, Medicine
Associate Dean for Medical School Admissions
Associate Dean for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion
University of Maryland School of Medicine

Juanita Merchant, MD

Juanita Merchant, MD

Chief of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
University of Arizona Tucson

Jesus Rivera-Nieves, MD, AGAF

Jesus Rivera-Nieves, MD, AGAF

Professor of Medicine
UC San Diego Health