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ASGE honors leaders in GI endoscopy at Crystal Awards

ASGE President Steven A. Edmundowicz, MD, FASGE (left) and Gregory G. Ginsberg, MD, FASGE (right)
ASGE President Steven A. Edmundowicz, MD, FASGE (left) and Gregory G. Ginsberg, MD,
FASGE (right)

ASGE and the ASGE Foundation honored several outstanding gastroenterologists who have contributed to the advancement of GI endoscopy during the annual Crystal Awards dinner on Sunday, May 19, at the US Grant Hotel in San Diego.


Held each year in conjunction with Digestive Disease Week (DDW®), the Crystal Awards gala recognizes award winners for their notable achievements and significant contributions to the profession and the society. Proceeds from the Crystal Awards support the ASGE Foundation. To make a tax-deductible contribution to the ASGE Foundation, visit www.asge.org or call 630-573-0600 or 800-343-ASGE (2743).


Schindler Award

ASGE’s top honor, the Rudolf V. Schindler Award, recognizes monumental achievement in endoscopy. The 2019 Schindler Award winner is ASGE Past President Gregory G. Ginsberg, MD, FASGE, professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia. Dr. Ginsberg serves as executive director of endoscopic services at Penn Medicine and is member of its Abramson Cancer Center.


Dr. Ginsberg was recruited to Penn Medicine in 1993, where his clinical practice and research focuses on the development, evaluation and implementation of new techniques and technologies as they apply to endoluminal diagnosis and management of digestive tract and related disorders. His ongoing research includes work related to Barrett’s esophagus endoscopic eradication therapy, gastrointestinal neoplasia, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), endoscopic ultrasound and peroral endoscopic myotomy. Much of this work has been aimed at applying minimally invasive approaches to digestive tract and related disorders as alternatives to operative interventions.


Dr. Ginsberg said he’ll be forever grateful for ASGE. “As my professional society, ASGE provided the role models and means to pursue an immensely satisfying career as a physician, gastrointestinal endoscopist, educator and clinical investigator,” he said. “I feel immensely honored to be recognized by ASGE with the Rudolph Schindler Award and will continue to dedicate myself to do honor to its legacy.”


Distinguished Service

The Distinguished Service Award is presented to an individual who has made a long-term contribution to GI endoscopy in the areas of equipment research and development, and who has been a strong supporter of the educational and research mission of the society. This year’s Distinguished Service Award honoree is ASGE Past President Colleen M. Schmitt, MD, MHS, FASGE, who founded the ASGE Leadership Education and Development Program for women and minorities.


Dr. Schmitt currently serves as ASGE Foundation vice president and was the first female independent practice leader to become ASGE president. “The society and the members who afford me this honor are an inspiration to me,” she said. “I have great respect and admiration for the colleagues who have mentored me and who provided opportunities for me to serve ASGE. The committee work has been great fun, has allowed me to learn and grow as a professional and has surrounded me with the highest caliber of physician endoscopists and staff.”

Dr. Schmitt, chief of the gastroenterology division at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine, Chattanooga, volunteers at local leadership programs and in high school biology, anatomy and physiology classes. She is a founding physician for Volunteers in Medicine and a volunteer for Project Access, which provides health care for the uninsured.

Distinguished Educator

The Distinguished Educator Award recognizes the contributions of physician educators for their involvement with trainee education, development or participation in endoscopy seminars or national postgraduate courses, published scholarly reviews or published educational materials, including videos. This year’s recipient is Amitabh Chak, MD, FASGE, professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.

“For me there can be no higher honor than to be recognized by those who I have helped train,” Dr. Chak said. “The Sanskrit word for an educator is guru. ‘Gu’ denotes spiritual ignorance that afflicts much of mankind, whereas ‘ru’ represents the radiance of spiritual knowledge that dispels the spiritual ignorance. Receiving the ASGE Distinguished Educator Award gives me the stamp of ‘endoscopic guru.’”

Dr. Chak has been studying Barrett’s esophagus since his days as a student when — with an ASGE pilot grant — he discovered that Barrett’s esophagus and cancers aggregated in certain families. His major research focus has been the epidemiology and genetics of familial Barrett’s esophagus and his research team discovered the first susceptibility gene for familial Barrett’s esophagus. He is currently principal investigator of a BETRNet Center Grant that is developing translational applications by investigating the genetics, epigenetics and transcriptomics of Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma. He has developed a molecular biomarker-based method for the non-endoscopic detection of Barrett’s esophagus that is currently in clinical trial.


Distinguished Endoscopic Research Mentoring

The Distinguished Endoscopic Research Mentoring Award honors career achievement by an ASGE member or fellow in mentoring of faculty or gastroenterology trainees in clinical or lab-related endoscopic research. It also recognizes mentors who have devoted substantial time and effort to develop and nurture the next generation of endoscopic investigators. The 2019 honoree is Christopher C. Thompson, MD, MSc, FASGE, director of endoscopy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston.


“This award is special to me,” Dr. Thompson said. “It’s always sad to see a fellow graduate. They become family. However, it’s an honor to have been a part of their growth as physicians and researchers, and to have provided guidance that may have helped them achieve their goals.”


Dr. Thompson, who is also advanced endoscopy fellowship program director and a member of the clinical faculty at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, has mentored more than 20 fellows and established the first fellowship in bariatric endoscopy. He also devotes time to research activities in endoscopic surgery, with a focus on device development, endoscopic education and clinical outcomes. His research has resulted in numerous patents and the development of new endoscopic procedures.


Master Endoscopist

The Master Endoscopist Award recognizes clinicians who spend the majority of their time in patient care and are recognized regionally or nationally for their expertise and longitudinal contributions to the practice of GI endoscopy. This year’s recipient is Thomas J. Savides, MD, FASGE, professor of clinical medicine at the University of California San Diego.


“I am grateful and honored to receive the 2019 ASGE Master Endoscopist Award,” Dr. Savides said. “I was privileged to have trained with two of the pioneers of modern GI endoscopy, who taught me the fine points of technical procedures. I have been fortunate to not only help patients with these endoscopic procedures, but also to play a small part in advancing research and training the next generation of GI leaders.”


Dr. Savides founded the UC San Diego advanced endoscopy program, serves as the GI clinical services chief and maintains a high-volume regional referral practice. Since 2014, Dr. Savides has been the chief experience officer for UC San Diego Health, the region’s only academic health system. In 2018 he was named the UC San Diego associate chief medical officer for medical staff affairs. His GI leadership positions have included the UC San Diego GI fellowship program training director, president of the San Diego Gastroenterology Society and ASGE Governing Board councilor.

International Service

This distinguished honor is presented to an international member who has served in a significant way to advance the mission of the society in the international community. The 2019 International Service Award honoree is Robert A. Enns, MD, head of the division of gastroenterology at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.


“ASGE has served as the foundation for most of my academic and clinical work during my career. Virtually all of my goals and objectives have been drawn from principles clearly outlined through ASGE,” Dr. Enns said. “This award, to me, demonstrates that I have shared those principles broadly. The recognition that I have distributed information from ASGE that is critical to patient care — thereby elevating patient and endoscopist care — is perhaps the greatest gift that ASGE could offer me. I have turned down various academic opportunities with the goal of emphasizing quality of care in my own province, so this award from ASGE is highly appreciated as it recognizes me as a clinical scientist and as an ambassador for ASGE.”


A member of ASGE for more than 25 years, Dr. Enns founded the Annual GI Forum in Vancouver, which emphasizes therapeutic endoscopy. The meeting was built on ASGE guidelines, which have become the basis for multiple quality endoscopy programs in British Columbia.

Industry Service

ASGE’s newest honor, the Industry Service Award, recognizes an individual whose work within industry exemplifies the values of ASGE and has made a positive impact on ASGE membership, patient care and the practice of endoscopy through education, training, research, technological advancements or other activities. The first-ever recipient of the Industry Service Award is Hiroshi Ichikawa, who dedicated more than 40 years to advancing the field of endoscopy at Olympus Corp. of the Americas, Center Valley, Pennsylvania.


“I am truly honored to be the first recipient of the Industry Service Award,” Ichikawa said. “I am grateful to my colleagues and friends for helping me to develop innovative endoscopic technologies and services for the benefit of patients, physicians, nurses and their related communities. I share this honor with my Olympus colleagues, as none of my accomplishments would have been possible without their hard work and support.”


Ichikawa joined Olympus Optical Co. in 1964. In 1968 he transferred to Olympus America when endoscopy was in its infancy and the company hoped to promote the use of flexible gastrocameras and early fiberoptic endoscopes in the U.S. market. During those early years, he established a practice of visiting GI units to exchange ideas with leading endoscopists and to identify unmet clinical needs. Ichikawa worked to bring numerous endoscopic products to the U.S., including a number of colonoscopes, upper GI endoscopes and duodenoscopes for ERCP.


President’s Award

Awarded at the discretion of the ASGE president, the President’s Award honors an individual for making exceptional contributions to ASGE and its mission. This year’s recipient is Gottumukkala S. Raju, MD, FASGE, a faculty member in the department of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston. He holds the John Stroehlein Distinguished Professorship and leads the Charles Butt, H-E-B GI Cancer Prevention, Research, and Education Program. Dr. Raju also serves as the editor-in-chief of Video GIE, ASGE’s video-based online journal.


I am grateful to Dr. Steve Edmundowicz for bestowing this special honor on me,” Dr. Raju said. “This award is a reflection of friendship and community work put in by many fun-loving, dedicated and passionate endoscopists at ASGE. I am grateful to each and every one of them. I’m also grateful for the members of the ASGE staff, who are truly exceptional professionals. They took care of us and set the stage for service.”


Among the many ways Dr. Raju has served ASGE, he is currently developing a dedicated, two-year education program for endoscopy techs at the Coleman College for Health Sciences in Houston. He has also served on or chaired numerous committees, including the postgraduate education committee, the web education committee and the educational products committee. Dr. Raju served as chair or co-chair for GESAP V, VI, VII and VIII.

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