Q&A with GI Women Society Presidents

The four U.S. gastroenterology and hepatology societies have made history this year. For the first time, the presidents of AGA, AASLD, ACG and ASGE are women. To mark and celebrate this occasion, the four presidents shared their experience and advice on taking on a leadership position.

Sheila E. Crowe MD, AGAF
AGA President

What motivated you to take on a leadership position?

I enjoyed being involved in the activities of the AGA starting from 1995 when I was appointed to the research committee. I continued to serve as a member and chair to a variety of AGA committees. I was encouraged by Gail Hecht, the second women AGA President who served in 2009-2010, and other friends and colleagues. Given my interests and encouragement of colleagues, I applied to serve as a AGA president and in 2015 I was selected as the AGA vice-president.

How do you see the profession evolving?

I believe that there will be changes in health care delivery, a greater focus on value of health care, attempts to reduce health care costs and a greater team focus on research to enhance outcomes in digestive diseases and increased impactful basic discoveries.

What advice do you have for women in the profession considering a leadership position?

You need to have experience working within AGA and a good understanding of the mission and vision of AGA. Be prepared to effect change and support AGA members and AGA office staff. Serve on a committee and ideally as a chair, providing you are an effective leader. Consider your existing positions/roles (day job, family, etc.) before taking on a new role. Note that this advice applies to both genders. Once you decide that you want to apply for an AGA Leadership position, prepare and then go for it!

Anna S. Lok MD, FAASLD
AASLD President

What motivated you to take on a leadership position?

I want to be able to make changes. I also want to show that women and minorities can become leaders. Asians are not considered minorities in the U.S., but I am a foreign medical graduate who did my training outside the U.S. so my path is atypical.

How do you see the profession evolving?

When I started 30+ years ago, there wasn’t much we could do for patients with liver diseases. I witnessed the progress of hepatitis C from non A non B hepatitis with no name and no diagnostic test to having a name and a diagnostic test. Nonspecific treatment with many side effects with low rate of success to now a greater than 95 percent cure for almost all patients who have been diagnosed and have access to care. We now need more providers to take care of patients so there are hepatologists in practice and most practices have physician assistants and nurse practitioners to help us manage patients.

What advice do you have for women in the profession considering a leadership position?

Trust yourself, believe that you can do it. Learn from others before you and also share your experience with others. There is no right way or wrong way when it comes to leadership, as long as you have your heart in the right place, are fair and transparent, and give it your best, you will do well. Listen and be open to input and criticisms. Balance the needs of different constituents and resources, so you can set the right goals and have the right plans to reach those goals. Embrace the help of others — you can’t do everything yourself. This also allows you to give an opportunity to others to lead and to participate.

Carol A. Burke MD, FACG
ACG President

What motivated you to take on a leadership position?

I began my involvement with the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) as a trainee member in 1993. My attachment to the life of the College was inspired by many of my mentors including Edgar Achkar, MD, MACG, and William D. Carey, MD, MACG, both past presidents of the society.

Through my pathway from secretary, treasurer, vice president, president-elect to president, I never turned down an opportunity to serve the College anyway that I could. My motivation and approach to leading the College this year is to gently, if only temporarily, help steward an organization whose mission and vision remain steadfast: to champion the evolving needs of clinicians in the delivery of high-quality, evidence-based, and compassionate health care to gastroenterology patients through excellence, innovation and advocacy in scientific investigation, education, disease prevention and treatment.

How do you see the profession evolving?

The stunning and rapid transformation in medicine is leading to shifts in health care delivery and payment schemas, widespread regulatory and reporting requirements, massive increases in medical knowledge, and declining funding of medical research. Our specialty is evolving to become laser focused on creating opportunities to improve the quality and value of health care we provide to our patients and to support our members in their practice and educational needs.

What advice do you have for women in the profession considering a leadership position?

Follow your passion, and be true to yourself. Leadership is not about a title, rather the ability to influence and inspire those around you. As I have found in my road to ACG president, it is not what the society can do for you, but what you can do for the society.

Karen L. Woods MD, FASGE
ASGE President

What motivated you to take on a leadership position?

Working with the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) over many years has allowed me to do two things that I love — learn and educate. Additionally, the professional connections and friendships I have made over the years have been instrumental in my professional development and rise to leadership. When the opportunity arose for me to serve the society, I was honored to give back to ASGE, initially as a committee member and ultimately as an officer.

How do you see the profession evolving?

The specialty of GI has not been immune to the enormous changes in how and where we practice medicine created by the Affordable Care Act and the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). It is becoming more difficult for the solo or small group practice to survive on our typical business model. I see the future of private practice consisting of many virtual groups or mega-groups, and I predict we will continue to see a shift of physicians from private practice to an employed model within hospital systems or large multi-specialty groups. ASGE is positioned to strongly support every practice as it is operating today, but we’re also looking at how things may change for many practitioners in the future.

What advice do you have for women in the profession considering a leadership position?

If you want it, go for it, but realize that you don’t have to have it all at the same time! We are many things: mothers, wives, physicians and leaders. These things are not mutually exclusive, but because of all the roles we play, may not always be done well at the same time. Becoming president of a society requires time and dedication that I did not have, and would not have been able to give when my children were young. Striving to have even a small service role at times when I could not lead was rewarding, and ultimately led me to my current position.

 

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