From basic to translational to clinical – AGA’s commitment to research

By David Lieberman posted Aug 15, 2018 08:08 AM

Lieberman_David.pngDuring my year as president of AGA, it’s important to me that I stay in touch with AGA members on the work our organization is doing to better the GI community. The AGA Community offers me a unique opportunity to be in touch with you directly. I am excited to use this platform to better understand your needs and challenges as a GI and engage in discussions. With this post, I am also happy to introduce a regular blog series where I will update AGA members on topics and issues I am focused on during my presidency. 
For my first blog post, I want to discuss a topic that came up recently at the governing board level and I feel deserves clarification for our members — AGA’s commitment to research. 
AGA has been a strong supporter of GI research since its inception.  In addition to AGA’s flagship grant, the Research Scholar Award (RSA), our portfolio includes pilot research grants as well as abstract-based awards for trainees presenting their work at DDW.  Our priority is to support a diverse portfolio of investigators who are making an impact on our understanding of how to diagnose, treat, and potentially cure digestive diseases. 
I have heard from members who are concerned that clinical research is not as strongly supported by AGA’s awards program. For those who hold this perception, I assure you that AGA has, and remains committed to, funding researchers working across the spectrum from basic to translational to clinical research. We hope that AGA will be considered the research home for all investigators across this spectrum.  
The RSA program has supported the career development of over 200 young investigators since 1984. Many current GI division chiefs are among those previously funded by an RSA. Within our recent cohort of awardees are many talented clinical investigators who are not only establishing successful careers but are also on their way to becoming future leaders within AGA. Here are a few examples of recent RSA recipients who are performing exciting clinical research: 

Benjamin Lebwohl, MD, MS (2014) 
Risk Factors for Celiac Disease and the Health Effects of Gluten 

Dr. Lebwohl worked to identify celiac disease risk factors using three large cohorts: the Nurses Health Study (NHS) and Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS), and the Growing Up Today Study (GUTS). He has also worked to develop a gluten ingestion index among the participants of these large epidemiological studies.  


Daniel E. Freedberg, MD, MS (2015) 

Clinical and gut microbiome factors associated with ICU-acquired infections 

Dr. Freedberg explored a new paradigm for understanding infections acquired in the intensive care unit (ICU): that key ICU-acquired infections originate in the gut, and that antibiotics are the cause rather than the cure for these infections.

Jeffrey K. Lee, MD, MAS (2015) 

Establishing evidence-based surveillance intervals: identification of risk strata after colonoscopic polypectomy using a large community-based cohort

Dr. Lee aimed to determine up to a 10-year absolute risk of colorectal cancer in patients after colonoscopy with adenoma removal, both overall and according to adenoma characteristics. As part of this work, he also validated a natural language processing tool that may be useful for research and quality measurement in other healthcare settings. 

Lea Ann Chen, MD (2016) 
Microbial predictors of clinical response to biologic therapy in IBD

Dr. Chen is studying the gut microbiome of IBD patients and its link to biologic therapy outcomes, in a manner which may one day be used to guide therapy.


Kyle Staller, MD, MPH (2016) 
A Prospective Study of Diet and Lifestyle and Risk of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Dr. Staller is conducting a prospective study of the effect of diet and lifestyle in childhood and adolescence on risk of IBS in adulthood using a large epidemiological cohort within the Growing Up Today Study (GUTS). 

We look forward to the next cohort of RSA applicants and continuing our tradition of supporting the next generation of researchers by funding the best science, whether basic or clinical. The RSA application portal will open on Sept. 21, 2018, at this link, and applications will be due on Dec. 14. 

What are the clinical research questions you would like to see addressed by future RSA recipients? Please share your ideas in the AGA Community forum