I have the privilege and honor to serve as AGA president as of June 1, 2020. When we look back at the first half of 2020, we will remember the COVID-19 pandemic and the unimaginable loss of life, morbidity, and economic impact it had. We will also remember the grief and anger that have characterized the recent weeks. I hope that the second half of 2020 will be a time that reshapes us for the better and allows us to seize the opportunity to make meaningful changes, in addition to recovering from the impact of the pandemic. The ongoing protests for the past 16 days against police brutality finally have our country recognizing front-and-center injustices facing African Americans.
While recognition of an injustice is a start, it is essentially meaningless unless action is taken to ensure equity in all facets of society. Of particular interest to AGA is access to health care without bias, addressing racial disparities in health care, diversity within the practice of GI, and supporting the careers of diverse researchers. AGA has a diversity policy and a solid history of programs supporting minority physicians and researchers. We know that’s not enough and AGA, with our dedicated committees, staff, and leadership, will continue to implement and assess plans for meaningful improvements. Watch for more on this topic in the future.
In addition, AGA took a pledge with our GI sister organizations to “continue to advocate for diversity in our staff and governance, grant awards to research health care disparities, ensure quality care for all, and work tirelessly to reduce inequalities in health care delivery and access.” We plan to honor this pledge with our own efforts and by making a concerted effort to work with AASLD, ACG, ASGE, DHPA, and other societies, colleagues, and friends.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a major challenge for our practices and to our research community. To all AGA members, please know that we have your back with a stream of practice guidance, business support, advocacy, and funding. You can find these resources collected at www.gastro.org/COVID.
My special thanks to the following AGA members, among several AGA staff and expert participants, for making these resources possible and highly engaging:
- Maria Abreu, who oversees our weekly COVID Connection webinar.
- Shahnaz Sultan and Joseph Lim whose Guidelines and Clinical Practice Update committees have generated evidence-based practice guidance at an incredible pace.
- Vivek Kaul and Vijay Shah who lead regular townhall webinars with division chiefs to share how GI divisions are pivoting to address the numerous current challenges.
- Rhonda Souza, chair of AGA Council, which is already thinking about how to make DDW 2021 a success.
Throughout my time as AGA president, I plan to communicate with you on a regular basis and welcome your input and suggestions. Watch the AGA Community for updates and announcements. Every other month, I plan to host a Townhall with the AGA President webinar on Zoom, where we can gather to hear from AGA leaders and staff on their work. My first webinar is planned for July 10, 2020, at 11 a.m. United States Eastern time. Watch for more info to come.
My goals are to build on what past president Hashem El-Serag has initiated and to work closely with John Inadomi (president-elect), John Carethers (vice president), the AGA Governing Board, committees, and staff. Along these lines, we will work tirelessly to support AGA domestic and international members and the gastroenterology community needs, be it patient care and those who provide the care, basic and clinical scientific discovery, education and training, advocacy, and ABIM recertification. I look forward to working with you and for you throughout the year.
Bishr Omary, MD, PhD, AGAF
AGA Institute President