Gastroenterology : Definition and Overview

The field of medicine involving, pertaining to, and treating illness of the digestive tract is none other than Gastroenterology. Beginning with the mouth (which is an organ), ending with the anus, and all that’s in between, this system is very complex and very vital, so there’s no doubt why there is an entire branch of medicine devoted to it. Gastroenterologists usually have 14-16 years of education and training, including a science or health related bachelors degree, a medical degree (D.O. or M.D.) from an accredited institution or medical college, an internship which may or may not be included in the residency program, usually an internal medicine residency program, and concluding with a gastroenterology fellowship.

The gastrointestinal tract is an organ system comprised of many organs that process food, break it down into usable nutrients and waste, and consequently absorbs the usable nutrients, and expels the waste. The main components of the system are, in order, the mouth, the esophagus, the stomach, the small and large intestines, the rectum, and the anus. Some vital glands that aid in digestion are the salivary glands, the gallbladder, the liver, and the pancreas.

There are quite a few illnesses that affect the digestive tract, such as celiac disease, appendicitis, peptic ulcer disease, pancreatitis, IBS, IBD, giardiasis, gastroenteritis, enteric duplication cyst, diverticulitis, colorectal cancer, and cholera. The symptoms of these vary, and if you suspect you might be coming down with one, you should contact your doctor or gastroenterologist.

The gastrointestinal system also plays a major role in the immune system, the system responsible for keeping us healthy and fending off disease and illness. The stomach has a natural pH between one and four, which kills most harmful microorganisms that are ingested. The muci of the tract also contain IgA antibodies that nullify many more of the microorganisms that would make us sick. Many of the enzymes in spit and stomach bile are yet another way the body fights illness!

Yet another uncertainty is the pending outcome of the country’s recently passed health care reform. If the plan can realistically succeed in growing the enrollment of the under and uninsured into healthcare insurance programs, the demand for services will increase, as will fees and prices. This is because, naturally, of the dramatic increase of people with access and demand for these services. It’s hard to tell, however, what will happen to reimbursement scales for Medicare and this new program. Will reimbursements be cut for various procedures? Will this program ultimately decrease income for physicians? It’s too early to tell but that is the fear.

Over the past year, since the election of President Barack Obama, there has been a lot of commotion on Capitol Hill regarding health care and how it’s passing is going to affect innumerable groups such as working Americans and middle class, small business owners and entrepreneurs, big businesses and insurance companies, the medical field, the under insured, Medicare and Medicaid, the private sector and the federal budget, senior citizens and children, and many more. The inevitable consequences of this, although currently unpredictable, will no doubt be historical and change health care radically. Its passing already has. For better or for worse is the concern, however. Everyone agrees health care reform was long overdue.

This is but one of many of affecting factors; some feel there are yet more unforeseen factors affecting the job climate for physicians. Either way, many doctors are postponing retirement until the situation becomes clearer. Physicians want to know what to expect when it comes to their salaries, and justly so. All gastroenterology subspecialties are being affected in the same manner.