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World Gastroenterology Organisation: A Vision for the Future

Levin, Bernard MD*

Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: October 2010 - Volume 44 - Issue 9 - p fmiii
doi: 10.1097/MCG.0b013e3181f0f714
WGO News

*Professor Emeritus, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas

Funding: None.

Reprints: Bernard Levin, MD, World Gastroenterology Organisation Foundation, 555 East Wells Street, Suite 1100, Milwaukee, WI 53202 (e-mail:

Conflict of Interest: None.

The World Gastroenterology Organization (WGO) is a federation of more than 100 national societies that represents over 52,000 practitioners around the world. As the only global society for gastroenterology professionals, WGO has been bringing together the world's leading minds in this field for over 50 years. The WGO works to improve the standards of training, education, and practice of gastroenterology and hepatology worldwide with a focus on low-resource nations.1 It is WGO's mission to promote, to the general public and health care professionals alike, an awareness of the worldwide prevalence and optimal care of digestive and liver disorders through the provision of high-quality, accessible, and independent education and training.

What isn't as well known is that the WGO Foundation was created in 2007 to serve as the philanthropic arm of the WGO and to act as the primary mechanism to secure philanthropic funds for these goals.

The powerful calling of the WGO—to assist low-resource countries in critical need of training and education and to position them to help themselves—has attracted some of the leading minds and voices of the gastroenterology profession from around the world. The Foundation is led by a volunteer Board composed of both physicians and business professionals who are committed to charting an important course of making philanthropy a vitally important part of the culture of change the WGO is striving to create. The Foundation seeks to be the catalytic agent for this change—a change that has and will continue to improve the lives of those confronting digestive and liver disorders every day in every part of the world.

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Over the past 10 years, the WGO has transformed from focusing solely on the developed or “high-resource” world to providing training and educational offerings to the developing or “low-resource” nations around the globe. There are many, many global health care issues that need time, money, and attention, but digestive and liver disorders have not received a proportionate share of funding or garnered the same level of attention as other diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. In addition to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of digestive and liver disorders, there have also been many advances in our understanding of the etiology and the pathogenesis of these diseases. Unfortunately, these breakthroughs and the related benefits from their discovery have not been felt equally in every part of the world, especially in the regions facing the greatest need.

To diminish the significant financial burden placed on the national healthcare budgets of many low-resource nations as a result of preventable and treatable digestive disorders, the WGO has positioned itself in a key leadership role. As the “global guardians of digestive health,” WGO strives to provide the resources, tools, education, advocacy, and training needed to address these challenges and create sustainable, enduring change on many levels through the hard work and dedication of its volunteer members. Consistent with this honorable and altruistic approach, the WGO maintains its role as the leading global gastroenterologic organization with the charge of promoting the highest standards of education, training, and practice within an ethical and principled framework.2

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The WGO has a portfolio of training and education programs to fulfill its mission including:

* Training Centers;

* Train the Trainers;

* Global Guidelines;

* Outreach Program;

* Cancer Education & Advocacy; and

* Public Awareness.

These programs represent an unprecedented level of collaboration between WGO, its member national societies, industry, and local government through financial support, donation of equipment and supplies, curriculum development, and general awareness.

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Each WGO program is thoughtfully designed to address specific areas of need in the practice of gastroenterology. Individual sessions or programs are further customized to meet the unique requirements and challenges of the settings in which they are delivered. The following high-impact strategies are how WGO and its partners promote progress and change around the world:

* WGO Training Centers—To elevate the level of practice and help retain highly skilled doctors and other related health professionals in low-resource nations by expanding the reach of and opportunities offered through this flagship program. WGO has trained over 1600 professionals at these 14 training centers since 2005;

* WGO Train the Trainers—To enhance the educational and training skills of clinician-educators by bringing together trainers from across the globe in intensive 4-day sessions. This forum developed by WGO enables interaction between world leaders in education for the sharing of experience and the discussion of common problems with over 400 participating to date;

* WGO Global Guidelines—To provide locally relevant treatment options through wider dissemination and adoption of these practical tools that use cascades that can be adapted to available resources and infrastructure, 20 of which have been developed to date3;

* WGO Outreach Program—To equip WGO Training Centers for primary and enhanced training and home institutions of WGO trainees with endoscopic instruments; and

* Advocacy and Public Awareness—To enhance the understanding of digestive disorders among practitioners, the public, and governments alike through programs, such as World Digestive Health Day (WDHD), a yearlong, worldwide public health campaign that focuses on an important topic in the area of digestive health. In 2009, we focused on Irritable Bowel Syndrome with the topic of Inflammatory Bowel Disease for 2010.

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WGO seeks to create a Global Education & Training Network leveraging the strength of the existing WGO programs. This network will expand each program's impact and reach to maximize resources and training efficiency. The long-term outcomes of this initiative include:

* Increased access to high-quality patient care; and

* Retention of skilled healthcare providers locally.

Although many organizations seek to advance the profession of gastroenterology, the reach and influence of the WGO is wider. We are the only organization that is truly global as reflected in the breadth of our member national societies and their member professionals. WGO also differs in the way it goes about its mission. We are the only one that seeks to expand the overall practice of the specialty within both fully developed countries with unlimited access to technology and modern techniques and low-resource nations where basic infrastructure, such as electricity and sanitation sometimes scarcely exist.

Our programs provide applicable knowledge and skills to in-country gastroenterologic professionals through scalable global guidelines and locally relevant training to educate them along with the local population in ways to prevent and treat common digestive and liver disorders. The end result is that practitioners are better able to care for their fellow citizens through their enhanced skills, tools, and expertise while expanding the specialty of gastroenterology and hepatology by training their peers.

We recognize the critical role that research plays in developing optimal preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for digestive diseases world-wide and the paucity of clinical research on digestive problems in emerging nations. Through the Train the Trainers program WGO promotes the inclusion of instruction on research methods in gastroenterology training programs by including modules on evidence-based medicine, trial design, and critical evaluation. An advanced version of TTT has been developed, which focuses entirely on trial design and the performance of clinical trials in gastroenterology. To further promote clinical research in low- resource regions, the Research Methodology Group of the Education and Training committee has developed a tool-kit of materials to assist the clinical investigator.

We are eager to partner with our friends from industry, academia, private practice, the public sector around the world to deliver on our important mission. We will post announcements and updates of our accomplishments on this important mission in the coming months on both of our websites, and

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1. Mandeville KL, Krabshuis J, Ladep NG, et al. Gastroenterology in developing countries: issues and advances. World J Gastroenterol. 2009;15:2839–2854.
2. Quigley EM. Fifty years of World Gastroenterology: the World Gastroenterology Organisation 1958-2008. Indian J Gastroenterol. 2008;27:181–182.
3. Bernstein CN, Fried M, Krabshuis JH, et al. World Gastroenterology Organization Practice Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of IBD in 2010. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2010;16:112–124.
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