Specialty spotlight – gastroenterology

Dr Ayesha Akbar, consultant gastroenterologist at St Mark's Hospital, talks about the specialty, what drew her to a career in gastroenterology, and how diverse a specialty it is.

Introduction to gastroenterology

Gastroenterology is one of the most diverse and exciting specialties available to the budding physician who not only relishes the prospect of looking after acutely sick and chronically unwell patients, but also enjoys the challenge of carrying out technical procedures that are sometimes very demanding.

Some specialists deal with a single organ but gastroenterologists manage patients with disorders of the liver, intestines, stomach, oesophagus, pancreas and gallbladder – in short, this is a specialty that is too varied to let you become bored! Having said that, there is ‘scope’ to become highly specialised in an area of gastroenterology that appeals to you. Either way, you will find that every day is different and dynamic, and this will keep you on your toes.

Gastroenterology has grown faster than any other major specialty, and ongoing scientific and technological developments in this field mean that you are always acquiring new skills and extending your knowledge.

To be a gastroenterologist, you need to: be adaptable and deal with rapidly changing situations; be energetic and enthusiastic (as well as resilient) to cope with life and death situations; be interested in managing patients with both serious and complex chronic diseases and, most importantly, be a team player.

More than any other specialty, gastroenterologists are constantly interacting with other healthcare professionals as part of multidisciplinary teams – from surgeons, to histopathologists, oncologists, dieticians, nurse endoscopists, radiologists and many more. In short, if all of the above excites you, as it did with me, then gastroenterology is the specialty for you.

Dr Philip J Smith, SpR in gastroenterology, London (ST4)

Training and working in gastroenterology

Gastroenterology resources

RCP resources