On May 21–24, 2022, the American Gastroenterology Association (AGA) resumed its first live annual meeting in San Diego, CA. The last live meeting was the highly successful 50th-anniversary celebration at DDW 2019 in San Diego.
The leadership and staff involved in the planning of Digestive Disease Week 2022 should be congratulated for a highly successful conference. The conference was a well-organized hybrid live/virtual symposium that enhanced rather than detracted from the educational platforms to increase engagement and impact — all within reach of a personal computer, laptop, tablet device, or smartphone.
As a presenter, planner, program chair, and participant, I have a unique perspective to share. Although highly intuitive, the virtual platform provided the convenience of attending from one’s living room, office, or even on a laptop on the deck or balcony; it presented challenges as less programming space was available compared to a large convention center with neighboring hotels.
I enjoyed being on-site, seeing people I knew, and meeting new people from around the globe; the vaccine verification process and registration process was smooth as silk. The AGA staff were outstanding, and the San Diego convention staff were accommodating. I would dare to say about 30% of the attendees’ worse masks, mainly KN94/95 varieties, but a good number had respirator quality masks as well, even when presenting or moderating.
The sessions were diverse and covered various items for the practicing, training, and academic gastroenterologist. I noticed less programming devoted to COVID-19 than in the 2021 program.
As a planner, presenter, and program chair — our AGA Institute Obesity, Metabolism, and Nutrition Council was devoted programs to on the obesity epidemic, the role of diet in gastrointestinal disease, and the emerging role of personalized medicine and nutritional genomics in obesity and gastrointestinal disease.
There is one program I would like to feature in this report. I co-chaired the program, ”Tadataka 'Tachi' Yamada, MD, Lecture: Our Food Environment: The Interplay of Genes, Phenotypes, and Environment That Shape Our Weight” with the vice-chair of our council, Dr. Andres Acosta of the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Rochester, MN, and Violetta Popov of NYU Langone School of Medicine. Our learning objectives were: to describe the role of genetic and epigenetic causes of obesity and the role of personalized medicine in treating obesity; to recognize the role of common environmental contributors to obesity, and to understand existing policies that affect the food industry, marketing in the digital age, and our diet.
The AGA has established this annual lecture at DDW to honor his remarkable legacy and the legions of lives that Dr. Yamada impacted during his lifetime and beyond.
The first lecture was Sp729: Personalized Nutrition 101: Nutrigenetics by Jose M. Ordovas, Ph.D. Professor of Nutrition And Genetics, Tufts University. The featured lecture was Sp730: Tadataka “Tachi” Yamada, Md, Lecture: The Role of Gastrointestinal Phenotypes In Obesity by Michael Camilleri MD, Professor Of Medicine, Pharmacology, Physiology Mayo Clinic Rochester, MN. The session concluded with lecture Sp731: Environmental Obesogens by Matthew C Cave MD, Professor of Medicine, Pharmacology, Toxicology, Biochemistry, And Molecular Genetics. The University of Louisville.
A word about Dr. Yamada and his impact on the field of gastroenterology: in June 1983, he was recruited to join the University of Michigan as a Professor of Internal Medicine and Chief of Gastroenterology. Between 1990–1996, he was the John G. Searle Professor and Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, succeeding Dr. William Kelley. During Dr. Yamada’s tenure, his department of medicine was recognized as being in the top five in the country during his tenure. Dr. Yamada developed an NIH-funded Michigan Gastrointestinal Peptide Research Center.
Dr. Yamada made several seminal discoveries in gut peptide physiology, structure and function of receptors, and hormones governing gastric acid secretion leading to octreotide, lanreotide, Histamine-2 acid blockers, and the proton pump inhibitors. The gold standard textbook for gastroenterology is “Yamada Gastroenterology,” an important part of his legacy.
Dr. Yamada was a past president of the American Gastroenterological Association Institute in 1996. He was on the AGA Governing Board twice: 1990—1993 and 1994—1999, and he was the founding chair of the AGA Council. He received the 1991 American Physiological Society Award for outstanding contributions to gastroenterology research among many of his awards. In 1992, he received the University of Michigan Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award. In 1996, he was honored with the Distinguished Medical Scientist Award from the Medical College of Virginia, and in 1998 he was given the Morton I. Grossman Distinguished Lecturer Award.
Dr. Yamada was a leader in industry and development. He was the President of the Health Care Division and Executive Director of SmithKline Beecham. He directed a multi-billion-dollar portfolio while President of Global Health at The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation from 2006–2011 and was a champion of global health in underserved and third world countries. Dr. Yamada also headed Takeda’s research and development (R&D) organization as Chief Medical and Scientific Officer and Executive Vice President.
Many sessions, e-posters, and research abstracts on artificial intelligence (AI) in gastroenterology. The most noteworthy was much attention given to “Machine Learning and AI, and GI Genius Intelligent Endoscopy Module-Exploring AI in Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.”
An important theme-related issue was social justice and diversity and inclusion in 2022. The DDW paid meticulous attention to incorporating programs that addressed gaps and disparities in our field. Eighteen DDW programs were dedicated to issues in diversity and inclusion. The AGA Presidential Plenary session featured the AGA Presidential Address by Dr. John Iadomi: Sp770: Presidential Address: Don’t Talk: Act. The Relevance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: To Gastroenterologists and Hepatologists and The Imperative for Action. This session also included lectures on the AGA Equity Project, Sp772: The Genesis and Goals of the Association of Black Gastroenterologists and Hepatologists (ABGH) by Sophie Balzora, and several other related lectures in this session. The American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASAGE) held a Women’s Focus on GI Career: An ASGE Women in Endoscopy Symposium (ASGE Special Interest Group Sponsored Session - ABE Women in Endoscopy SIG). ASGE President Dr. Jennifer Christie delivered a lecture on Sp762: How I Will Promote Diversity, Equity, And Inclusion While Leading A GI Professional Society
In the end — DDW 2022 was an outstanding educational experience, and it was so good to reconnect with colleagues in-person. DDW 2023 will be in Chicago. Although unofficial, it is likely there will be a virtual platform available. Hope to see you all in 2023!
Dr. Mullin is employed by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He has received grants from Biofilm Epidemiology and Mechanisms in Colon Cancer, National Institutes of Health, R01CA196845, and Cynthia Sears JHSOM.
Image by Luciano Lozano / GettyImages