The Year of Zoom
GIRF 2020 Annual Meeting
As part of the GI Research Foundation’s annual meeting, held virtually on August 26th, David T. Rubin, MD, and Eugene B. Chang, MD, GIRF Scientific Advisors, provided updates and insight on the many advances at the University of Chicago Medicine Digestive Diseases Center in the past year, despite the incredible challenges experienced as part of the global pandemic.
“I am proud of our incredible team and my colleagues, and pleased share with you this report on our progress during these difficult times,” explained Dr. Rubin.
One important highlight of note: the newly improved status of the adult gastroenterology and GI surgery specialty at the University of Chicago Medicine in the annual US News and World Report hospital ranking, now ranked 13th in the United States, a dramatic increase from the previous year’s position (22nd).
The number of patients seen in outpatient settings continued to increase in 2019-2020 (up 13%). Likewise, GI patients can see a UChicago digestive diseases physician or undergo a procedure in nine locations in the Chicagoland area, the most ever, including the brand-new facility in the heart of Chicago’s River East neighborhood, which opened February 24, 2020. Despite the impact of COVID-19, liver transplant surgeries increased 68% over the previous year, and overall transplant surgeries increased by 22%.
The Digestive Diseases Center is poised to be integrated as a formal service line at the University of Chicago Medicine, with a new 5-year strategic plan to build on existing momentum, primed for growth in IBD, obesity, foregut and abdominal wall defects, pancreatic disease, and hepatobiliary and liver transplants. Overall, the strength of the Digestive Diseases Center continues to garner eminence and enhance the sterling reputation of University of Chicago around the world.
Dr. Chang’s report on the research productivity of the Digestive Diseases Center was similarly impressive, especially given the stumbling blocks created by statewide COVID-19 shelter in place orders that stalled research programs at all institutions in Spring 2020.
Dr. Chang highlighted the prolific cross-disciplinary research conducted within the Digestive Diseases Center, and the more than 200 publications published by members last year in basic, translational, and clinical research. Researchers in 2019-2020 received six federal grant awards and twelve non-federal grants, and the total amount of grant funding continues to steadily increase, with $13.5M dollars in funding received in fiscal year 2020. Dr. Chang reported that there are 184 active human subject trials currently being conducted in digestive diseases, and that the collection of samples for the GIRF sponsored translational core data bank remains robust.
“This means that if Dr. Pekow, Dr. Jabri, Dr. Rubin, or Meren, or any of our team members identifies as a question they need to answer, they can use this specimen bank to begin work on that study right away, without needing to spend time collecting the requisite number of samples to get started. It is a way that we have streamlined research to be better positioned to answer these questions,” explained Dr. Chang.
These encouraging updates, shared with the Board of Directors following the most unusual and tumultuous periods marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, help to highlight the strong partnership GIRF shares with the University of Chicago Medicine Digestive Diseases, and illuminate the path forward in these uncertain times.