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Young, gifted and Black: 3 GIs making an impact

Three AGA FORWARD Program Scholars discuss their careers and inspiration.

To kick off AGA’s commemoration of National Black History Month, we are highlighting the future of GI. These three AGA FORWARD Program Scholars are living the lyrics of the renowned Nina Simone song, “Young, Gifted and Black” by making an impact in the GI community.

Learn more about who has inspired them, their past year’s accomplishments and what’s to come in their careers.

Picture of Cassandra Fritz, MD, MPHS
Cassandra Fritz, MD, MPHS

Dr. Cassandra Fritz is an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Divisions of Gastroenterology and General Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis.

Dr. Fritz’s research focuses on colorectal cancer risk factors, disparities and access to screening services. Her time outside the hospital is spent enjoying activities with her family and running around with her two sons.


So many people have been truly integral to my career, but my role model and inspiration is my mama. As a young Black girl interested in science and medicine, I have heard a lot of “no” throughout my educational path. It wasn’t always a direct no; most recommendations were more subtle (“science is a hard field,” “have you considered other options other than medical school,” “it’s always good to have a backup plan,” “GI might be too competitive,” etc.). My mama, who does not have a background in science or medicine, instilled the values of education, knowing my worth, finding my voice, and not listening to the noise (other peoples’ opinions). She is still my guiding light and fiercest advocate.”

Picture of Jeremy Louissaint, MD
Jeremy Louissaint, MD

Jeremy Louissaint, MD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center. His research interests are focused on leveraging digital health to improve the outpatient care of persons with cirrhosis, with an emphasis on using effective technology-based patient-provider communication tools. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, spending time with family and friends, and exploring new restaurants.

This past year, I completed transplant hepatology fellowship training at Columbia University and subsequently started my first faculty position in the Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases at the University of Texas Southwestern.

It has been amazing to reflect on my road to becoming a transplant hepatologist and all the experiences that have prepared me to launch my academic career. Starting as faculty has already been so fulfilling – the opportunity to provide clinical care, teach and learn from trainees, and pursue my research interests is rewarding.

Picture of Olumuiya Awoniyi, MD
Olumuiya Awoniyi, MD

Dr. Muyiwa Awoniyi is an associate hepatologist at Cleveland Clinic Digestive Diseases and Surgery Institute, Department of GI, Hepatology and Nutrition with a joint appointment in Lerner Research Institute, Department of Inflammation, and Immunity.

His clinical and research interests include the study of host microbial interaction in cholestatic liver diseases, particularly patients with PSC and related PSC-IBD.

As a physician-scientist and junior faculty member at Cleveland Clinic with research interest in the microbiome and cholestatic liver disease space with a clear research plan, my next steps include securing extra-mural funding, assembly of a team of skilled researchers, growth in my network of collaborators and mentors, establishing a strong presence in the scientific community, with the goal of translating findings into clinical practice.

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