Exploring this Job
One of the best introductions to a career in health care is to volunteer at a local hospital, clinic, or nursing home. In this way it is possible to get a feel for what it is like to work around other health care professionals and patients and possibly determine exactly where your interests lie. As in any career, reading as much as possible about the profession, talking with a high school counselor, and interviewing those working in the field are other important ways to explore your interest.
The American Medical Association offers useful information on education and careers in medicine at its Web site. It also provides specialized information on the career of gastroenterologist at https://www.ama-assn.org/specialty/gastroenterology.
Gastroenterologists are internal medicine physicians who specialize in the treatment of the digestive system, including the small and large intestines, colon, stomach, esophagus, and liver. They examine patients, prescribe drugs when needed, diagnose disease, and perform various procedures to treat those diseases.
Gastroenterologists work closely with other specialists to treat patients, such as oncologists (cancer specialists), cardiologists (heart specialists), and surgeons. The chronic nature of many gastrointestinal problems often results in long-term relationships between doctors and their patients.
Technological advances in gastroenterology have made the diagnosis and treatment of certain types of gastrointestinal problems much easier on the patient. One of these advances is endoscopy, the use of lighted, flexible tubes to peer into areas of the body that could only be seen during surgery before. The tubes and tools attached to them are controlled by computer.
One procedure making use of endoscopy is polyp removal. A polyp is a growth in the intestines that can become cancerous. In the past polyps were removed by surgery, but now they can be treated sooner and with fewer risks.