Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology Research and Educational Update – July 2024

Message from Andrew Wang MD, Division Chief Gastroenterology and Hepatology

Andrew WangThe Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology is concluding another strong and busy year. Our faculty, fellows, and staff have continued our tradition of excellence in clinical patient care, education, and research. We are fortunate to be the premier academic Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Our 24 faculty members (eight full professors, eight associate professors, six assistant professors, one clinical instructor, and one visiting professor), five advanced practice providers, twelve GI fellows, and four administrative staff that belong to our five Sections (Luminal Gastroenterology, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Interventional Endoscopy, Hepatology/Liver Transplantation and Education) are outstanding clinicians, caregivers, and professionals. Our division is regularly referred patients for gastrointestinal and hepatology care throughout Virginia and the surrounding states. Additionally, patients seek the Division’s subspecialty expertise, consultative care, and advanced endoscopy procedures from across the United States and internationally.

UVA Gastro

Karen Finke receiving notification of the Leonard Sandridge Award: Karen Finke was a winner of the Leonard Sandridge Outstanding Contributor Award. This is the highest staff award at the University. The span of her multi-disciplinary contributions is immense, and we are so thankful she was recognized for her empathy, clinical excellence, selfless dedication to patients, and collegiality among UVA team members. Contributions for her nomination letter were received from many GI Faculty, RN Care Coordination, Nutrition, Radiation Oncology, and Neurology reflecting her wide impact across the health system and continuum of care. Front from left – Catherine Bauer, Dr. Andrew Wang, Tammie Rinaldo, Julia Warren, Yvonne Jarvis, Dr. Jeanetta Frye, Dr. Vanessa Shami, Karen Finke, Anne Hodgson, Jane Moore, Lisa Beach, Katie Edmonson, Colleen Green Back from left – Dr. Leland Stratton, Dr. Dennis Kumral, Jennifer Mileur, Nicole Maupin, Brenda Clark, Jody Farmer, Hallie Gunnoe, Dr. Mark Worthington

We welcome Dr. Rebecca Haug, who will join our Section of Luminal GI in July 2024. Dr. Haug was a resident and chief resident in our Department of Medicine (DOM), and she has been an outstanding GI fellow at UVA. Dr. Haug will be seeing general GI patients and taking over as our division’s Quality Lead with assistance from Dr. Zach Henry, who has led in this role with distinction for the past three years. We also welcome Dr. Anya Mezina, who will join our Section of Hepatology and Liver Transplantation in September 2024. Dr. Mezina graduated from the Osler Medical Residency Training Program at Johns Hopkins Hospital and completed her GI Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is completing her Transplant Hepatology Fellowship. Dr. Mezina is interested in the genetics of steatohepatitis and in data science research from a liver perspective.

Our faculty have been responsible for many awards and honors this past year. Several have authored clinical guidelines and/or clinical practice updates for our major GI and hepatology societies, positively influencing patient care. We wish to congratulate Dr. Neeral Shah, who received the David A. Harrison Distinguished Educator Award, Dr. Daniel Strand, who was given a Dean’s Clinical Excellence Award; Dr. Curt Argo was recognized with the 2023 UVA GME Master Educator Award, and Dr. Vanessa Shami was the recipient of two national awards: a Research Mentor Award from the American Gastroenterological Association and the Women in Endoscopy’s 2024 Founding Mothers in Endoscopy Award. Lastly, UVA Health conferred Karen Finke, PA-C, the Leonard Sandridge Outstanding Contributor Award. We also wish to call attention to Dr. Alexander Podboy who was recently accepted into the iTHRIV Scholars Mentored Career Development Program. Dr. Podboy will be mentored by Dr. Emily McGowan in the Division of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology on his project ”Deciphering the Immunologic Landscape of Gastroparesis Associated Pylorospasm: Insights from Single-Cell RNA Sequencing and Gastric Per-oral Endoscopic Myotomy.” Last but not least, we wish to thank Dr. Stephen Caldwell, who, in October 2023, assumed the role and responsibilities of Chair of the UVA Institutional Review Board for Health Sciences Research.

From left – Dr. Lindsey Bierle, Dr. Andrew Wang, Dr. Vanessa Shami, Dr. Kyoungwon Jung

The Division is responsible for over 1,200 outpatient clinic visits/month, and we routinely perform around 18,000-20,000 endoscopic procedures annually. Over half of the calls for transfers to the Department of Medicine (DOM) at UVA Medical Center are requests for transfer for complex GI and hepatology/liver transplant inpatient care, and our annual inpatient consult volume continues to climb (7,100 consults in FY22, 7,900 in FY23, and an estimated 8,200 in FY24). Due to the work of our Division’s Transplant Hepatologists, who staff outreach clinics in Arlington, Virginia—and are expanding services to see patients in Southwest Virginia—our referrals for liver transplantation are more numerous than ever.

As we enter the latter half of 2024, our Division and the UVA Digestive Health Program still have work to do. To meet the demand for our great clinical care, we are actively recruiting outstanding clinicians, educators, and researchers to fill positions in transplant hepatology, inflammatory bowel disease, and general gastroenterology. We are assisting leadership in UVA Community Health (CH) build a community-based GI/Hepatology program in the Prince William/Manassas corridor, and we were pleased to welcome UVA CH’s first GI hospitalist Dr. Rohit Sharda this past Spring. Our Division’s efforts at integration between UVA CH and UVA Medical Center were recognized by UVA Health for our “there-and-back-again” ERCP program whereby patients at UVA CH in Northern Virginia are transported to UVA Medical Center for ERCPs, after which they return to their UVA CH hospital to recover closer to home and their families. In March 2024, we began renovating our two existing interventional endoscopy fluoroscopy rooms. We will break ground on a third state-of-the-art interventional endoscopy room in the coming months to meet ever-increasing demands for our specialized procedural services. Given the huge demand for our general endoscopy services, we expect to offer outpatient endoscopy procedures at UVA Riverside/Monticello Surgery Center soon. Our outpatient clinics have expanded to Zion’s Crossroads, and we anticipate seeing patients soon at the UVA Multispecialty Clinic in Fishersville.

As always, our division and faculty Medical Directors continue working closely with our Digestive Health leaders (Rob Teaster, Cathy Bauer, Jody Farmer, Barbara Seabert, Yvonne Jarvis, Heather Rojas, and Jennifer Mileur). Our physicians, advance-practice providers, and fellows would be unable to do what we do without our skilled and dedicated nurses, techs, medical assistants, and access team members. High-quality patient care is a product of our entire team working together, and we are thankful for our outstanding team. Special thanks to the Division’s great Administrative Team led by Lisa Beach, MHA, which includes Tammy Eubank, Sandy Marshall, Joanne Delapp-Anderson, and Emily Miksovic.

Please take a few minutes to read this issue of Medicine Matters. In these pages, you will learn about the clinical advances and research being pursued by each of our Sections.

Finally, we wish to thank our grateful patients, GI fellowship alums, and all who have donated to the Division to further our academic missions. Special thanks to Dr. Syed Siddiqi, a former UVA GI fellow, who with his family endowed the Richard W. McCallum, MD and Siddiqi Family Gastroenterology Motility Research Grant and a separately endowed Research Mentorship Award. The contributions of all of our generous donors are critical to all that we do.

Thank you for joining us!

David D. Stone, MD Professor of Medicine
Division Chief of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, UVA School of Medicine
Director of Interventional Endoscopy, UVA Medical Center
University of Virginia

UVA GastroUVA Gastro

Clinical Update

Section of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Section has remained active in the Division’s clinical, academic, and research missions. Unfortunately, Dr. Esteban Figueroa will leave UVA for other career pursuits this June, leaving a small but mighty section compromised of Krysti Homa, AG-ACNP, and Drs. Brian Behm and Anne Tuskey. The group continues to see patients with complex Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis from across the state and neighboring states. We are actively interviewing for an additional advanced practice provider and an IBD physician to continue to serve our broad referral base.

Dr. Behm continues to serve as the Clinical Director of the Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT) Program and collaborates with colleagues in Infectious Disease to manage patients with complicated C. difficile infections.
In addition to a busy clinical practice, the IBD section is actively involved in clinical research. The Section receives funding from two NIH awards for which Drs. Behm and Tuskey are co-investigators. UVA just opened enrollment for a third NIH-funded study on using hyperbaric oxygen in patients hospitalized with acute severe ulcerative colitis. Dr. Tuskey is the local primary investigator. In addition, the group currently participates in six industry-sponsored IBD clinical trials.

Lastly, Drs. Behm and Tuskey continue to maintain a commitment to education and the academic mission of the Division. Dr. Tuskey continues to co-lead the six-week GI System for the UVA SOM’s first-year students, and all three faculty were invited to speak at local, regional, and national meetings this past year.

Section of Hepatology

The Section of Hepatology has remained active and successful in all its academic missions in FY24.

We are pleased to add a new faculty member, Dr. Anya Mezina, who will join us after completing her transplant hepatology fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. She also gave birth to her son Adrian recently! We look forward to Dr. Mezina’s arrival and welcoming her to our growing team.

Dr. Brian Wentworth completed the Junior Faculty Development Program with an exceptional presentation on his main research interest, hypoadrenalism in cirrhosis. He also served as an invited speaker at Digestive Disease Week (DDW) 2024, the largest annual international meeting in GI and hepatology.

Dr. Zachary Henry has also had an excellent year. He is spearheading UVA Liver Transplant’s addition of an outreach clinic in Roanoke and taking leadership in establishing UVA’s first-ever transplant oncology clinic. Dr. Henry will also be taking over the Medical Directorship for UVA Living Donor Liver Transplant in July 2024, accepting the leadership post from Curtis Argo, who has served as Medical Director of this program for over ten years.

Dr. Nicolas Intagliata has also demonstrated superior leadership in his Directorships of the Transplant Hepatology Fellowship program and the UVA Transplant Clinic. Dr. Intagliata has had several top-tier publications in the last year, including interim results from his international, multi-center study of peri-procedural bleeding in cirrhosis patients. This year, Dr. Intagliata will be an invited lecturer at DDW and the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) meeting.

Dr. Neeral Shah continues to lead our Division’s Gastroenterology and Hepatology Fellowship for his seventh year and he leads the hepatology portion of the UVA SOM’s pre-clinical curriculum. Dr. Shah also serves as an Associate Editor of one of the most prominent journals in our field—The American Journal of Gastroenterology. Dr. Shah has continued serving as Course Director for UVA’s annual regional gastroenterology and hepatology conference at The Boar’s Head Conference Center. Dr. Shah is the Director of the UVA School of Medicine’s
Academy for Excellence in Education. Dr. Shah was named Chair of the Academies Collaborative for the AAMC, a committee of all US teaching academies. He also serves as Governor of Virginia for the American College of Gastroenterology and is President of the Virginia Gastroenterological Society.

Dr. Curtis Argo continues to serve as Chief of the Hepatology Section in our division. He is also Medical Director of the UVA Liver Transplant Program. Dr. Argo was Co-Director of UVA’s Controversies in Liver Transplantation fall conference at Wintergreen Conference Center. Along with Dr. Shah, Dr. Argo helped co-author several authoritative reviews with UVA GI/Hepatology fellows, Dr. Sahil Khanna, Dr. Neha Rajpal, and Dr. Himesh Zaver on the application of the recently revised MELD 3.0 score and utilization of PEth testing in caring for alcoholic liver disease patients.

Dr. Stephen Caldwell took over the ambitious task of chairing the UVA IRB-HSR in November 2023. Dr. Caldwell is the Director of the Division’s Clinical Research Program, oversees a team of seasoned CRCs, and has an annual research budget in the $1.2 to $1.4 million range.

The Hepatology Section continues to lend strong support to UVA’s Liver Transplant program, which posted a growing number of liver transplant referrals and had 82 deceased and living-donor liver transplants performed with exceptional one- and three-year outcomes—well above expected performance levels. The living-donor liver transplant program successfully performed 14 living-donor liver transplants in adult and pediatric recipients. Dr. Zach Henry continues to lead our division’s quality improvement efforts, collaborating with Sierra Lee and team leaders in endoscopy, outpatient clinic, and inpatient medicine.

Colleen Green, PA and Carolyn Driscoll, FNP continue to lead our strong General Hepatology APP team. Together, Carolyn and Colleen have over 30 years of experience treating hepatology patients. Our APP team is looking to grow in the next several years based on the growing demand for general hepatology consultative visits. We all continue to be strongly supported by an exceptional nurse coordinator team, which includes Amy Brown, Katherine Craig, Marcia Haney, Stacy Harper, Faith Mawyer, and Jivannie Nelson.

Our hepatology team has refined our urgent outpatient clinic visit triage mechanism that helps to provide general and transplant consultative care on a time-sensitive basis according to the urgency of the request. This has been successful in helping to maintain a manageable wait time for clinic access to hepatology care. Dr. Nicolas Intagliata and Sue Striano (Transplant Social Work) continue to revise the UVA Liver Transplant team’s approach to transplant candidacy for alcoholic liver disease patients, emphasizing a more individualized, relapse-risk-based approach.

Section of Luminal Gastroenterology

Our Section of General or Luminal GI comprises a group of clinically focused faculty who provide a broad range of expert care to meet the clinical needs of patients from the UVA primary care base, as well as—in consultation—patients referred from gastroenterologists, surgeons, and other practices across the Commonwealth. The luminal GI group also takes great pride in its educational endeavors within and outside UVA. This group includes Drs. Andrew Copland, Amy Doran, Jeanetta Frye, Dennis Kumral, Steven Powell, Mark Worthington, Cynthia Yoshida, and our two advanced practice providers, Karen Finke, PA and Hallie Gunnoe, PA. The group offers a full array of procedural support, including services that are limited across the Commonwealth for needs such as small bowel enteroscopy and GI motility services (esophageal manometry, gastroesophageal reflux/pH studies, anorectal manometry, smart pill endoscopy, and targeted breath testing). In particular, esophageal motility and reflux studies have played an important role in supporting other programs, such as the UVA lung transplant program. Dr. Jeanetta Frye manages Virginia’s most comprehensive GI motility lab, performing high-resolution esophageal/anorectal manometry and other GI physiology studies. Furthermore, the Luminal GI group offers key endoscopy services to the community, including high-quality colonoscopy for colorectal cancer screening and an open-access diagnostic upper endoscopy and colonoscopy program for UVA patients.

The luminal group is growing, and we’re delighted to welcome one of our graduating fellows, Dr. Rebecca Haug, to our group as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine. Dr Haug graduated from UVA’s Internal Medicine Residency, after which she excelled in our GI fellowship program. We’re excited about the energy, new ideas, and clinical acumen she will bring to the Division.

Our general GI practices are largely housed at the main hospital, with a smaller satellite clinic at the UVA Crozet Clinic. In addition to the general GI clinics, there are several subspecialty clinics, such as the Celiac Clinic, led by Dr. Dennis Kumral, which allows for focused care of patients with celiac sprue in close partnership with our dietetics colleague Mallory Foster. The Society for the Study of Celiac Disease has recognized our clinic at UVA as part of its Celiac Disease Unit Recognition Program.

Dr. Andrew Copland provides specialty care for small bowel diseases, providing expertise in cases requiring video capsule endoscopy and small bowel enteroscopy. Dr. Copland also specializes in endoscopic resection of large luminal GI polyps, and he is the first author of an AGA Clinical Practice Update on Appropriate and Tailored Polypectomy, which was published in 2024. Because of Dr. Copland’s knowledge and expertise in colorectal polyp resection, he was invited to speak at DDW 2024 on this topic. As Medical Director of Endoscopy, Dr. Copland oversees our busy Outpatient Endoscopy unit at Monroe Lane, and he has been leading efforts to expand our endoscopy services to the UVA Health Surgical Care Unit at Riverside/Monticello Surgery Center.

Dr. Amy Doran serves as the Associate Program Director of our GI Fellowship and plays an active role in fellow education, curriculum development, and the GI fellows continuity clinic. Dr. Doran and Dr. Jeanetta Frye have excelled at mentorship in research as Mira Sridharan (a former UVA medical student) presented their original research on the “Evaluating the Prevalence of Intestinal Methanogen Overgrowth” as a podium presentation at DDW 2024.

Dr. Jeanetta Frye continues to spearhead the UVA Luminal GI E-consult program and her role as the Director of Motility. Dr. Frye’s motility lab recently received a generous research grant from a former UVA alumnus, Dr Siddiqui, to help sponsor research efforts in GI motility. Additionally, Dr. Frye is UVA’s site PI for a phase 2 trial: “A Multi-Center Study of Panosyl-Isomaltooligosaccharides (PIMO) Adjunctive to Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) Therapy to Treat Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in Subjects Who Are PPI-Responders or PPI-Partial Responders.”

Karen Finke, PA-C, one of our senior-most clinicians, leads our gastrostomy tube nutrition clinic, which helps support the needs of patients in oncology services and the neurology ALS clinic. For the outstanding clinical care she provided for over two decades, Karen was recognized with the prestigious Leonard Sandidge Outstanding Contributor Award in November 2023. This award is given to outstanding university staff and team members whose service and contribution far exceed the overall mission and values of the university, and it is the highest honor achieved by non-faculty at the University of Virginia.

Dr. Mark Worthington has a busy general GI practice and loans his wealth of experience and enthusiasm to our fellows (and his partners!) daily. We appreciate his efforts as a member of the School of Medicine’s Promotion and Tenure Committee, which serves a critical academic mission. Dr. Worthington will be helping to lead our expansion in endoscopy services to UVA Health Surgical Care Unit at Riverside/Monticello Surgery Center.

Dr. Cynthia Yoshida leads the UVA Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Colorectal Cancer screening program. Dr. Yoshida has partnered with Dr. Li Li and Dr. Jamie Zoellner on a project investigating genetic, lifestyle, and community factors that drive the significant racial disparities that exist for colorectal cancer. She has served as UVA’s Virginia CRC Round Table lead and remains passionate about educating patients and providers about colorectal cancer screening options and best practices.

Section of Interventional Endoscopy

Our Interventional Endoscopy team continues to succeed in clinical care, education research, and local, national, and international scholarship.

Dr. Vanessa Shami, Section Chief of Interventional Endoscopy, received the American Gastroenterology Association and Women In Endoscopy awards for mentoring at Digestive Diseases Week in May 2024. She continues to mentor clinicians in endoscopic ultrasound as part of the American Society in Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Diagnostic EUS course, which she co-created with two other colleagues from Stanford and Mayo Clinic Arizona. She continues to serve as Editor-in-Chief of Clinical Endoscopy. Her proudest immediate achievement has been collaborating with Dr. Zachary Henry to introduce and grow the field of endo-hepatology at the University of Virginia.

Section of Interventional Endoscopy

Dr. Ross Buerlein’s research, conducted in collaboration with Dr. Matthew Reilley in Oncology and Kim Kelly, PhD, has yielded promising results. They have been assessing the ability of a novel biomarker (cell surface Plectin) to diagnose cholangiocarcinoma from samples of biliary epithelial cells obtained via ERCP-directed biopsies. Their pilot study showed all cases of cholangiocarcinoma had positive Plectin expression, and they are planning to expand this study to indeterminate biliary strictures. In addition, Dr. Buerlein has been actively mentoring Gianna Stoleru, MD (UVA GI fellow), who won the EndoTitans Challenge at the 2023 American College of Gastroenterology Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada. He and colleague Dr. Andrew Copland have also been developing a hands-on endoscopy education curriculum for the GI fellowship program, creating models specific for teaching certain endoscopic skills. Lastly, he presented Hospitalist Grand Rounds on the inpatient management of acute pancreatitis and its complications, sharing his expertise with the broader medical community.

Dr. Daniel Strand co-directed the 2023 ACG/VGS/ODSGNA regional conference in Williamsburg, the oldest and one of the most well-attended ACG regional meetings, with an annual attendance of over 300 practicing GI physicians. Dr. Strand will direct this acclaimed meeting in September 2024. He was awarded the Dean’s Award for Clinical Excellence and co-authored nine manuscripts last year. He appeared on an AGA podcast highlighting a Clinical Practice Update on Endoscopic Management of Acute and Chronic Pancreatitis, on an NBC 29 interview about cholangiocarcinoma treatment, and in a UVA Health System Town Hall for our same-day ERCP service. Dr. Strand leads the UVA Advanced Endoscopy Fellowship Program and directs the UVA-National Pancreas Foundation Centers for Pancreatitis Care and Pancreatic Cancer.

Dr. Bryan Sauer was promoted to Professor of Medicine and continues to be active clinically in esophageal diseases, primarily focusing on eosinophilic esophagitis. The Adult Multidisciplinary EoE Clinic remains active with over 500 patients. The EoE Program recently was awarded an NIH R01 grant, led by Dr. Emily McGowan (Allergy) as the PI, entitled “Defining the Role of Immunoglobulin G4 (IgG4) in Food-induced Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE).” Dr. Sauer continues to be very active in the American College of Gastroenterology as a GRADE methodologist and newly elected Chair of the Practice Parameters Committee, responsible for creating clinical practice guidelines for the ACG. Finally, he leads an NGO (Central America Outreach and Endoscopy – CARE) dedicated to providing endoscopy and gastrointestinal care in Central America, focusing on Guatemala. Over the past year, three medical mission trips occurred, providing GI care to over 150 individuals with over 100 endoscopy procedures performed.

Dr. Alex Podboy assumed the Director of Bariatric Endoscopy role at UVA and has been spearheading novel endoscopic therapies for treating obesity. Dr. Podboy has also continued to develop the UVA Per Oral Endoscopic Myotomy (POEM) program into one of the highest-volume programs in the mid-Atlantic, which treats patients with achalasia and gastroparesis. He continues to further UVA’s commitment to research with over ten publications. He is the current PI in a multi-center study assessing the role of high results in electrogastography in treating medically refractory gastroparesis. As mentioned, Dr. Podboy recently received an iTHRIV research mentorship award. Dr. Podboy achieved all of this while also becoming a dad!

Dr. Kyoungwon Jung is a visiting professor at Kosin University, Busan, Korea, who has been at UVA since September 2023. Dr. Jung is an expert in GI endoscopy and third-space endoscopy. Dr. Jung has been conducting research in our Division and assisting some of our faculty in gaining high-level training in ESD.

Dr. Andrew Wang has continued to serve as Director of Director of Interventional Endoscopy for the UVA Medical Center, in addition to being Division Chief. He has led the Endoscopy Device Committee since 2009. He has worked with Rob Teaster, Cathy Bauer, and Susan DiGuilio from UVA Value Management to help negotiate best-in-class contracts for endoscopy capital, disposables, and scope repair contracts. Dr. Wang completed his role as an adjudicator for the Stent vs. Indomethacin Trial (NIH U award), which culminated in a publication in the Lancet in 2024 on “Indomethacin with or without prophylactic pancreatic stent placement to prevent pancreatitis after ERCP: a randomized non-inferiority trial.” Dr. Wang also completed his three-year term as Chair of the AGA Clinical Practice Updates Committee in May 2024, having served seven years on this important committee that has been responsible for informing patients, clinicians, and payors about the latest in clinical GI and hepatology usually before guideline-level documents are possible. Dr. Wang continues his clinical practice focusing on pancreatobiliary endoscopy (ERCP/EUS) and third-space endoscopy (POEM, Zenker’s diverticulotomy, and of course, endoscopic submucosal dissection [ESD] of GI dysplasia and early cancers).


Research Update

The Division’s Clinical Research consists of seven Clinical Research Coordinators, now working on over thirty therapeutic and diagnostic protocols, overseen by eighteen faculty physicians. The work is self-sustained under the direction of CRC manager Sharon Foster and director Dr. Stephen Caldwell. The Division’s research is a productive enterprise that manages a research budget of approximately 1.4 million Dollars (direct funds) derived from industry, federal, and state grants. The Division receives funding from 2 NIH U-awards (1 for Dr. Wang and 1 for Dr. Tuskey). Dr. Behm is a sub-investigator on one R01 award in collaboration with the Infection Diseases/DOM. Dr. Sauer is a sub-investigator on another R01 award in partnership with Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology/DOM.

Active areas of clinical research are in Hepatology (clinical trials concerning therapeutics for fatty liver, autoimmune liver disease, cirrhosis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, and coagulopathy), Advanced Endoscopy (acute pancreatitis treatment/prevention, endoluminal resection of premalignant and early GI malignancies, endoscopic ablative therapy for cholangiocarcinoma, screening for premalignant gastric conditions, endo hepatology), celiac disease, and GI motility. Our IBD team participates in several phase 2 and 3 multi-centered treatment trials for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Current clinical trials include therapeutics for fatty liver, autoimmune liver disease, cirrhosis (Drs. Caldwell, Henry, Argo, Shah, Intagliata and Wentworth), inflammatory bowel disease (Drs. Tuskey, Figueroa, Behm), prevention of procedure-related pancreatitis (Drs. Wang, Strand, Buerlein, and Podboy), and direct treatment of portal hypertension (Dr Wentworth). There are several new clinical studies in development for a broad variety of potentially severe liver and GI diseases, including cutting-edge studies of hyperbaric therapy of refractory Ulcerative Colitis as well as immunomodulatory therapy, which offers a potential cure for PBC (an autoimmune liver disease) and celiac disease (Dr. Kumral). Investigator-initiated studies include an international consortium started at UVA (Dr. Intagliata), which focused on bleeding risk in liver disease patients undergoing various procedures and involved over 1,000 patients from centers in North, South, and Central America; a consortium of centers with a focus on strategies in managing gastric variceal bleeding (Dr. Henry); and studies of hepatorenal syndrome (Dr. Wentworth). Almost 100 patients are involved in current treatment trials, and nearly 200 additional patients are involved in ongoing observational studies.

Important interdisciplinary collaborations include work with Interventional Radiology in Hepatocellular Cancer therapy, Allergy and Immunology in the care of Eosinophilic Esophagitis (Dr. Sauer), and the Division’s work in supporting innovative trials in Liver Transplantation, especially for organ preservation (Drs. Argo, Pelletier, Goldaracena) as well as Basic Science collaboration with colleagues in Pharmacology (Drs. Schulman, Caldwell) studying advanced models of disordered liver fat metabolism. Dr. Podboy has successfully published multiple articles on bariatric endoscopy. Dr. Podboy is also the lead PI on a multi-site prospective trial utilizing a novel high-resolution electrogastrography device to identify myoelectric gastric patterns that could help predict response for patients undergoing gastric POEM. Dr. Podboy is also a 2024 recent recipient of an i-THRIV award.

Clinical research in the Division has flourished and has been sustained for over 35 years. The Division continues to grow its federally funded research portfolio. In the industry-sponsored realm, UVA’s team has maintained a strong presence in trials, and the number of different trials in which the group participates is at the highest level ever.

Education Update

The UVA Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology is very proud of its strong tradition of excellence in education and of its many contributions at UVA (School of Medicine and Fellowship), in the region (local committees and conferences), nationally (via national committees and conferences), and internationally (panel moderators, international trainees, invited talks).

Our premier GI and Hepatology Fellowship Program, led by Dr. Neeral Shah (Program Director) and Dr. Amy Doran (Associate Program Director), selects four candidates each year from a highly competitive applicant pool. Our fellowship aims to impart to our trainees a solid clinical foundation and to mentor their development as researchers and academic leaders. The three-year program comprises clinical training in year 1, research training in year 2, and a third-year training with a focus determined by individual needs and career goals. A four-year track incorporating formal degree training in clinical research or public health is also offered for qualified candidates.

The division also has a long-standing and successful ACGME Transplant Hepatology Fellowship, which Dr. Nicolas Intagliata directs. Additionally, Dr. Andrew Wang restarted the Advanced Endoscopy Fellowship (AEF) program in 2012, now directed by Dr. Daniel Strand, which trains 1-2 AEF trainees each year, who also serve as Clinical Instructors in the SOM.

Outside of UVA, the faculty in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology continue to have influential educational impacts through holding active committee member roles in Gastroenterology and Hepatology national societies, serving as editors for Board Review Materials, serving as an editor for the American Journal of Gastroenterology; being invited speakers and hands-on trainers of various endoscopy courses.

This year, the division was honored to host four outstanding educational events:

UVA Gastro

2024 Boars Head Conference: Some of the GI Fellows and Attendings who participated at the Annual Gastroenterology and Hepatology Conference, hosted at the Boars Head. From left – Dr. Dennis Kumral, Dr. Anthony Rainho, Dr. John Hickman, Dr. Neha Rajpal, Dr. Rebecca Haug, Dr. Gianna Stoleru, Dr. Preethi Venkat, Dr. Neeral Shah

Annual UVA GI Conference
Our 19th annual CME conference on gastroenterology and hepatology at the beautiful Boars Head Resort surpassed all expectations this year. With a record-breaking attendance of 160 registrants, the event attracted a diverse audience, including faculty, fellows, referring providers, nurses, and techs. The lineup of speakers was outstanding, featuring three experts from outside the institution, two of whom were alums from our very own fellowship program, adding a special touch of pride and connection. The presence of over 30 trainees, including those from neighboring states, underscored the conference’s regional significance and impact. A highlight of the program was the participation of UVA fellows, who contributed significantly by presenting on a panel reviewing complicated GI bleeding cases, showcasing the depth of talent within our institution. With such resounding success, anticipation is already building for the next installment in March 2025, promising yet another enriching and enlightening experience for all involved—special thanks to Drs. Dennis Kumral and Neeral Shah, thank you for organizing this outstanding educational conference!

Peura Lectureship: From left – Dr. Lindsey Bierle and Dr. Priyanka Kanth

Peura Lectureship: From left – Dr. Lindsey Bierle and Dr. Priyanka Kanth

Dr. David A. Peura Endowed Lectureship
The Second Annual David A. Peura, MD Endowed Lecture: “Early Onset Colorectal Cancer” by Dr. Priyanka Kanth, MD, MS, FACG, AGAF from MedStar Georgetown University Hospital took place on March 13, 2024. We were extremely fortunate to have Dr. Kanth as an honored guest and speaker during Colon and Rectal Cancer Awareness Month, with a particular focus on early-onset colorectal cancer awareness. Dr. Lindsey Bierle, the 2023-2024 Chief Fellow for Gastroenterology and Hepatology, helped arrange a special UVA Colon and Rectal Cancer Awareness Week (March 11-15, 2024), and Dr. Kanth’s lecture during GI Grand Rounds, as well as mentorship sessions with Faculty and Fellows, were highlighted events during the week.

Battle Against Early Onset Colorectal Cancer (EOCRC) Initiative
Our chief fellow, Lindsey Bierle, led the University of Virginia’s “Battle Against Early Onset Colorectal Cancer (EOCRC) Initiative.” This was a mobilized and collective effort among UVA undergraduates, medical students, internal medicine (IM) residents, and gastroenterology (GI) fellows to amplify awareness during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in March 2024. Recognizing the importance of engaging younger adults in the 18-35-year age range, the initiative empowered campus groups to shape a compelling outreach strategy. Leveraging insights from the NCCRT (National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable), residents crafted visually captivating social media posts to highlight the urgency of early-onset colorectal cancer (EOCRC). Educational content was disseminated across prominent Instagram pages, including @uvagastro, @uvaimr, @uvaschoolofmedicine, and @hittingcancerbelowthebelt. The campaign reached UVA Health’s extensive network of 7,000 employees and medical students through departmental emails and online articles, igniting vital discussions and sparking tangible action in the fight against EOCRC. With over 4,000 accounts reached and significant engagement metrics, the initiative exemplified the power of collaborative efforts in driving meaningful change.

Respess Lectureship: From left – Dr. Andrew Wang and Dr. Neena Abraham

Respess Lectureship: From left – Dr. Andrew Wang and Dr. Neena Abraham

Dr. James C. Respess Endowed Professorship in Gastroenterology
The 26th Annual James C. Respess lectureship series took place on May 7-8, 2024, and was delivered by Dr. Neena Abraham, MD, AGAF, FACG, FASGE, Professor of Medicine from Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, Arizona, Divisions of Gastroenterology & Hepatology and Health Care Policy Research. This lectureship series affords us the annual pleasure of inviting senior Distinguished Professors of Gastroenterology to speak at the University of Virginia. Dr. Abraham presented two lectures titled “Boost your GI Career at any (st)age: Strategies to Ensure You Thrive.” and “Antithrombotic Drug Management in GI Bleeding and Endoscopy: Best Practice, Clinical Guidelines & Limitations.” During her visit, Dr. Abraham also provided valuable mentorship sessions with Faculty and Fellows.

Mullholland Award: From left – Dr. Neja Rajpal and Dr. Monica Lawrence (DIO)

Mullholland Award: From left – Dr. Neja Rajpal and Dr. Monica Lawrence (DIO)

Finally, with great pride, we recognize two members of our Division who received significant awards related to the educational mission, congratulate our graduating fellows, and welcome our incoming fellows.

Dr. Neha Rajpal, one of our first-year fellows, received the prestigious Mulholland Teaching Award. This esteemed accolade, presented annually by the Mulholland Society and Graduate Medical Education office, recognizes exceptional teaching abilities demonstrated by residents and fellows. Neha’s dedication to medical student education, both formally and informally during clerkships and fourth-year electives, has not gone unnoticed. Her commitment to fostering learning environments where students thrive and her passion for imparting knowledge sets her apart as a standout educator. Neha’s receipt of this award is a testament to her outstanding contributions to medical education and inspires her colleagues and peers.

Brittany Davis, our GME Program Coordinator, was named the National Association of Program Directors in Internal Medicine (APDIM) Program Administrator Rising Star of the Year.

Presentation at the Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine (AAIM) Conference by the Division Fellowship Coordinator, Brittany Davis: From left – Lizzie Daniels and Brittany Davis

Presentation at the Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine (AAIM) Conference by the Division Fellowship Coordinator, Brittany Davis: From left – Lizzie Daniels and Brittany Davis

In addition to all that she is doing for our fellowship, Brittany is also working on an institutional and national level with program coordinators in other departments at UVA and around the country to lead the efforts in training people about virtual interviewing with Thalamus. Brittany has also been selected to present a workshop at the APDIM conference about using social media to highlight your program.

Congratulations to our Graduating Fellows
Dr. Lindsey Bierle – Completed a chief fellow year and is moving to Lynchburg, VA to practice.
Dr. Christy Gilman – Will be moving to practice in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Dr. Rebecca Haug – Will be joining the UVA GI faculty.
Dr. Leland Stratton – Will be moving to practice in Washington, DC.

Welcome to Our Incoming Fellows

UVA Gastro Fellows

Read full Edition of July 2024 Medicine Matters

Filed Under: Basic Research, Clinical Research, Education, In the Know, News and Notes, Notable Achievements, Publications, Research, Top News

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