Gastroenterology is an internal medicine subspecialty. It is a competitive medical specialty that deals with the study of the digestive system and disorders related to gastrointestinal tract. Gastroenterology is an interesting medical field that provides in-depth understanding of gastrointestinal organs, movement of food particles in the intestine, digestion, absorption, and removal of food.
Gastroenterologists are specialized physicians who treat disorders related to the digestive system. They complete special training in treating stomach, intestines, colon, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, and bile duct related disorders. Gastroenterologists can treat a wide variety of conditions such as diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, rectal bleeding, and abdominal pain.
If you want to learn normal functions and diseases of gastrointestinal tract, choosing gastroenterology as a medical specialty is a great idea. Choosing a gastroenterology specialty in medical school will allow you to better understand normal activities and diseases of the digestive organs.
Let’s discover how to become a gastroenterologist, education and training required to become a gastroenterologist and career prospects.
Job Duties of a Gastroenterologist
A gastroenterologist is a medical professional who treats diseases related to the digestive system, including esophagus, pancreas, small intestine, colon, and liver. Physicians receive specialized training in hepatology to learn about normal functions and diseases of the liver. Gastroenterologists can work independently and run their own clinic, or work in medical centers, hospitals and laboratories and other clinical environments.
Gastroenterologists treat a wide variety of GI tract disorders and diseases associated with hepatic system. They are trained enough to treat patients with GI bleeding, abdominal pain, indigestion, constipation, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, gastroenteritis, jaundice, irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune liver disorders – to name a few.
These specialized medical professionals are responsible for performing many specialized diagnostic procedures including:
- GI endoscopy
- Gut and liver biopsy
- Bowel endoscopy
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ECRP)
- Esophageal dilation
- Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy (PEG)
The responsibilities of gastroenterologists include:
- Taking patient’s history
- Performing meticulous physical examination
- Performing diagnostic tests (endoscopies, CT scans, ultrasounds, MRIs, X-rays, biopsies)
- Completing therapeutic and screening processes
- Working with surgeons, radiologists, oncologists, pathologists, nurses, and administrative staff
How to Become a Gastroenterologist?
Complete a Bachelor’s Degree
Students interested in becoming a gastroenterologist have to complete the required education and specialized training. Aspiring gastroenterologists have to complete a bachelor’s degree and complete the prerequisite courses and other admission requirements to get into medical school. The prerequisite courses for medical school admission include:
- Inorganic and organic chemistry
Get into Medical School
To become a gastroenterologist, students should complete a four-year MD program from a Caribbean medical university. The first two years (MD I and MD II) of medical school are based on building a strong medical foundation. The remaining two years (MD III and MD IV) are truly focused on clinical training to gain hands-on experience. Students receive clinical training in different hospitals to get a better idea of multiple medical specialties.
After completing an MD degree, students should pass USMLE to become eligible for residency training. U.S. Medical Licensing Examination is a three-step test that analyzes a student’s ability to understand medical concepts and deal with different clinical situations.
Complete Residency Training in Internal Medicine
Once you complete an MD degree from an American Caribbean medical school, and successfully pass USMLE Step 1 and 2, graduates are required to complete specialized training in a three-year internal medical residency program. Residents rotate in different subspecialties of internal medicine to get diverse clinical experience and polish your diagnostic, procedural and therapeutic skills.
Obtain a Gastroenterology Fellowship Training
Once you complete the residency training in internal medicine, you will become eligible for fellowship training in gastroenterology. It will take 2-3 years to complete additional specialized training in gastroenterology.
The goal of completing gastroenterology fellowship training is to develop an in-depth understanding of gastrointestinal diseases. Residents will learn how to perform advanced diagnostic and therapeutic procedures and treat a broad range of GI conditions. Students will learn how to prevent and cure gastrointestinal disorders, care for patients and prescribe medications.
During fellowship training, MD graduates will receive specialized training in endoscopy and learn how to perform specialized endoscopic procedures such as polypectomy, hemostasis, esophageal dilation, etc. Gastroenterology trainees will learn how to interpret radiological findings and biopsy results and make accurate treatment plans. Some gastroenterologists also get training in performing endoscopic ultrasound, non-surgical removal of tumors, and other minimally invasive treatment procedures.
Get Board Certification
After completing a three-year residency training and two-year fellowship training in gastroenterology, students will be eligible for board certification. Gastroenterologists are required to become board certified to practice in different states of the U.S. and Canada. To get a board certification, you need to pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and gastroenterology exam ABIM or ABCRS.
Career Opportunities for Gastroenterologists
Getting specialized training in internal medicine and gastroenterology will prepare MD graduates for a number of career opportunities in the field of gastroenterology. Gastroenterologists can practice in different states of the U.S, and Canada after getting a medical license. There are a number of career opportunities for gastroenterologists available in hospitals, clinics, medical centers, research centers and laboratories.
Are You Ready to Become a Gastroenterologist?
A gastroenterologist is a physician who can diagnose and treat gastrointestinal disorders. You can fulfill your dream of becoming a gastroenterologist by applying to WUSOM and completing an MD degree program.