In this part one episode of the Small Talk Big Topics podcast, hosts Matthew Whitson and C.S. Tse are joined by Dr. John Carethers. Dr. Carethers has a long history of dedication and service to the AGA, an impressive academic career and a strong commitment to mentorship. In today’s episode, they discuss his leadership roles and important career advice for trainees.
To begin, John Carethers introduces himself as a Gastroenterologist for the last 20 years and has been selected as the President of the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA). He is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan. He announces that in 3 months he will become the Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences at the University of California San Diego.
Next, Dr. Carethers describes how he has been a member of AGA since 1993. He originally joined as a fellow and completed a research track for his fellowship. He was on the underrepresented minority committee, joined the diversity committee and then became heavily involved in the AGA council. He says that his favorite role or committee has been the research committee.
To continue, Dr. Carethers describes how the presidency for AGA is only for one year, so part of his presidency has been continuing the project from the last president. Right now, they are working on an AGA Equity Project where they are pushing for removing the barriers for colon screening. The private insurers are reducing the copay and they want to increase the complete rates for colonoscopies. They would also like to embrace non-invasive screening as well. Dr. Carethers states that they need to use all of our tools for the volume of people that need to be screened if they want to lessen the number of people actually getting cancer. They also want to eliminate disparities in colon cancer screening. Right now, the number of people getting screened is different across racial and ethnic populations. He says this gap will continue to widen and might be set back in 10-15 years.
He also discusses the idea of navigation and how they can also eliminate disparities by navigational colonoscopy or noninvasive surgery. They are different levels of navigation though, and these can be pushed through advocacy and coverage. The navigation would have to be targeted to someone’s specific income or medicaid, etc. He says the definition of what’s equitable will be different for each person.
Next, Dr. Carethers discusses the tools available to AGA, which represents over 16,000 gastroenterologists. They provide education and training, advocating for members and include state and federal governments. They have staff for government relations, a patient advocacy group and have also been mentioned by the American Cancer Society. Dr. Carthers urges the power of the members in writing letters to congress to leverage the industry. He also says it is the AGA’s 125th anniversary.
Additionally, there are 50 blood tests attempts right now, but some have shown false positives. He also talks about Fitplus DNA, Colorguard 2.0 with additional markers with detecting polyps, microbiome analysis, and the ability to predict cancer. He says 18 million people between 45-49 have colonoscopies right now, but 60-65% of those colonoscopies are normal. He would like to add 5 minutes to the screening procedure and also to get the patients with positive tests in to see a doctor more quickly.
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