It should come as no surprise that the newly installed president of the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), David Greenwald, MD, FACG, has made the wide-ranging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic his priority.
“Without a doubt, COVID-19 is the biggest challenge not just for ACG members but also for health systems and for people around the world,” says Dr. Greenwald, Director of Clinical Gastroenterology and Endoscopy at The Mount Sinai Hospital, and Professor of Medicine (Gastroenterology) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “My role is to help our members across the country and the world in managing this crisis, and ACG has developed roadmaps and detailed guidance to do just that.”
Dr. Greenwald’s plan is rooted in three core elements, all of which are intertwined. The first is resilience, which he says gastroenterologists have demonstrated over the past year. “We need to recognize and remind ourselves of the great work we have done and the outcomes we have achieved, whether serving as COVID-19 physicians or reopening our practices and reassuring patients who were frightened to come in,” Dr. Greenwald says. “That collective experience has resulted in crucial knowledge that we can use not only to continue building resilience but also to care for our patients, ourselves, and each other.”
“My role is to help our members across the country and the world in managing this crisis."
-David Greenwald, MD
The second element, respect, is inspired by the racial equality and social justice conversations and demonstrations that occurred following the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many others. “Through the work of its diversity, equity, and inclusion committee, the ACG is shining a light on these issues; further progress will come with ongoing attention to actionable change. There is so much more we can do as a community of gastroenterologists to lead in this area.”
That brings Dr. Greenwald to the third element, relationships, which he admits may be harder to maintain in an era of social distancing and isolation. He points to technology as a way to reinforce and enhance member connectivity, citing the ACG’s October 2020 virtual Annual Scientific Meeting and the launch of virtual Grand Rounds as examples of what can be achieved. “For these Grand Rounds every Thursday, we often have more than 1,000 gastroenterologists participating,” Dr. Greenwald says. “To put that in perspective, there are 15,000 gastroenterologists nationwide. Add to that the many gastroenterologists who are joining platforms such as Twitter, and it is clear there are opportunities to maintain our connections through social media and other virtual tools.”
Dr. Greenwald has many other priorities as ACG president, one of which is to continue to address colorectal cancer screening rates nationwide. It is a goal that has been complicated by COVID-19, but he believes progress is possible.
“Several decades ago, the colorectal cancer screening rate among adults ages 50 to 75 was approximately 40 percent, but now we are at approximately 67 percent, and aiming higher,” he notes. “The ACG has been a leader in promoting colorectal cancer screening, and I expect we will continue and strengthen our efforts on this front over the coming year.”
David Greenwald, MD, FACG
Professor of Medicine (Gastroenterology)