AGA Family of Websites:

AGA announces 2021-2023 FORWARD Program Scholars

The NIH-supported program announces its second cohort of Scholars.

Bethesda, MD (Jan. 26, 2022) — The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) is proud to announce the 10 early career physician-scientists selected as “Scholars” for the 2021-2023 AGA FORWARD Program: Fostering Opportunities Resulting in Workforce and Research Diversity, supported by NIH (1R25DK118761-01). This new cohort of Scholars will participate in a training and mentorship program designed to provide concrete and applicable skills to promote underrepresented populations in the pursuit of successful careers as physician-scientists.

“AGA is excited to announce our second cohort of FORWARD Program Scholars as we continue in our promise to inspire and cultivate the next generation of prominent, diverse leaders in gastroenterology and hepatology,” said Byron Cryer, MD, FORWARD Program co-chair, AGA Equity Project co-chair and associate dean for the Office of Faculty Diversity & Development, UT Southwestern Medical Center. “This class includes gastroenterology and hepatology’s most gifted underrepresented population leaders who are trailblazers for the future of academic medicine.”

Each Scholar has been paired with a top GI investigator for the duration of the program who will provide mentorship and help in developing the Scholar’s leadership skills and strengthening their research and lab management skills to ensure continued success in their careers. In addition to the GI mentors, the program will be introducing five “near-peer” mentors from the inaugural FORWARD cohort who will each serve as program guides for the current cohort Scholars.

AGA FORWARD Program Scholars

  • Muyiwa Awoniyi, MD, PhD, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Bubu Banini, MD, PhD, Yale School of Medicine
  • Manuel Braga Neto, MD, PhD, May Clinic in Minnesota
  • Jihane Benhammou, MD, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Cassandra Fritz, MD, Washington University/B-JH/SLCH Consortium
  • Joel Gabre, MD, Columbus University
  • Rachel Issaka, MD, MAS, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center of University of Washington
  • Jeremy Louissaint, MD, Columbia University Medical Center
  • Vivian Ortiz, MD, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
  • Nicolette Rodriguez, MD, MPH, Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School

AGA recognizes and thanks the AGA FORWARD Program chairs for spearheading this important initiative: Byron Cryer, MD, Juanita Merchant, MD, PhD, Bishr Omary, MD, PhD, AGAF and Jesus Rivera-Nieves, MD, AGAF.

AGA has committed to a multi-year effort spanning all aspects of our organization to achieve equity and eradicate disparities in digestive diseases through the work of the AGA Equity Project.


Media contact: Courtney Reed,, 301-272-0025

About the AGA Institute

The American Gastroenterological Association is the trusted voice of the GI community. Founded in 1897, the AGA has grown to more than 16,000 members from around the globe who are involved in all aspects of the science, practice and advancement of gastroenterology. The AGA Institute administers the practice, research and educational programs of the organization.

Like AGA on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter @AmerGastroAssn
Check out our videos on YouTube.
Join AGA on LinkedIn.