“So you want to be a gastroenterologist? What do you really want to do?” This is not an uncommon question that a trainee is faced with when progressing through residency and gastroenterology fellowship.
The list of possibilities includes general gastroenterology, advanced endoscopy, transplant hepatology, and neurogastroenterology and motility. From there, each subspecialty can be broken down further into organ system or a specific procedure of interest. Another necessary question is whether to pursue a career in academics or private practice.The first is for the resident who is interested in gaining experience in gastroenterology prior to starting a general gastroenterology fellowship (there are two programs that currently allow for this pathway). The other track is for those who have completed a general gastroenterology fellowship and are looking to enhance their academic careers by pursuing additional training in neurogastroenterology and motility.
There is currently a need for gastroenterologists interested in neurogastroenterology and motility. Among the most common diagnoses in an ambulatory setting, based on International Classification of Disease (ICD) coding, are abdominal pain, gastroesophageal reflux disease, constipation, nausea and vomiting, irritable bowel syndrome, functional dyspepsia, and dysphagia.1,2 While many fellows are exposed to a wide range of motility patients during general gastroenterology fellowship, there is typically not a sufficient amount of training to attain “level 2” proficiency.2,3 In an effort to help standardize training there are recommended thresholds established and advanced training in neurogastroenterology and motility can help fellows to attain that proficiency.2,3 The extra year can also help you prepare to run a motility lab, train nurses, establish lab protocols and quality standards, and manage referrals, which are important skills as a neurogastroenterology and motility specialist.
Types of programs
There are several different types of motility programs available. As mentioned previously, some programs afford individuals an opportunity to gain additional experience in gastroenterology before progressing to general gastroenterology fellowship. There are two programs that offer a 1-year fellowship in neurogastroenterology and motility, both prior to or after a general gastroenterology fellowship. Four programs offer 1-year neurogastroenterology and motility fellowships only after a general gastroenterology fellowship. While the neurogastroenterology and motility fellowships cover esophageal motility, there are four programs that specifically focus solely on the esophagus (Table 1).
In addition to pursuing an extra year of training, interested gastroenterology fellows may choose to explore a 1-month Clinical Training Program sponsored by the American Neurogastroenterology and Motility Society (ANMS) at 1 of 10 centers.
Where to find programs
Currently, there is not a singular list of neurogastroenterology and motility programs available for review as you might find with an Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) residency or fellowship. At present, the best way to identify the available programs is to search online. Motivation to select a specific program may be related to individual preference and can include geography and department expertise; this ultimately helps to create a focused list. With regard to the ANMS 1-month Clinical Training Program, the list of available programs is available on the society’s website and is for fellows currently in training who wish to incorporate neurogastroenterology and motility into their general GI fellowship.