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February 20, 2019

AGA recognizes 10 rising physician-scientists from diverse backgrounds to participate in the new FORWARD program

These 10 Scholars will participate in the 2019-2020 AGA FORWARD Program: Fostering Opportunities Resulting in Workforce and Research Diversity.
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Bethesda, MD (Feb. 20, 2019) — The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) is pleased to announce the 10 early career physician-scientists selected as “Scholars” for the 2019-2020 AGA FORWARD Program: Fostering Opportunities Resulting in Workforce and Research Diversity, supported by NIH (1R25DK118761-01). These 10 Scholars will embark on a year-long training and mentorship program designed to provide concrete skills to promote underrepresented minorities in the pursuit of successful careers as physician-scientists.

“AGA is thrilled to launch the FORWARD Program, which underscores our commitment to promoting diversity in the field of gastroenterology,” said project director Byron Cryer, MD, associate dean for the Office of Faculty Diversity & Development, UT Southwestern Medical Center. “Our inaugural class of Scholars includes 10 of the most promising underrepresented minority leaders who are shaping the future of academic medicine.”

AGA FORWARD Program Scholars

  • Yelina Alvarez, MD, PhD, University of Pennsylvania Health System
  • Dominique Bailey, MD, Columbia University Medical Center
  • Veroushka Ballester, MD, MSc, Columbia University Medical Center
  • Oriana Damas, MD, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
  • Patricia Jones, MD, MSCR, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
  • Antonio Mendoza-Ladd, MD, Texas Tech University at El Paso
  • Folasade (Fola) May, MD, PhD, MPhil, University of California at Los Angeles, VA Health Administration
  • Akinbowale (Akin) Oyalowo, MD, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
  • Nneka Ufere, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Eric J. Vargas, MD, Mayo Clinic

View Bios

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 management skills to ensure continued success in their careers.

AGA Chair Sheila E. Crowe, MD, FRCPC, FACP, FACG, AGAF, serves as principal investigator for the AGA FORWARD Program. Dr. Cryer is project director working with key personnel Juanita Merchant, MD, PhD, and Jesus Rivera-Nieves, MD, AGAF. This team brings decades of experience in leadership development, program management and successful mentoring of early career physician-scientists in developing research careers.

Learn more about the AGA FORWARD Program.


Media contact: Rachel Shubert,, 301-272-1603

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.

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