I attended ACG 2018 to represent my company whose mission is to make colonoscopy easier, safer, and more effective . I am also the daughter of a Stage IV colon cancer survivor and watched as my father underwent chemo, numerous surgeries, and immeasurable mental and physical stress. Both professionally and personally, promoting colonoscopy is high on my priority list. It is through these lenses that I experienced the conference.
Despite being a natural introvert, I looked forward to meeting some of my colon cancer prevention heroes. To that end, I queried poster presenters, flagged down social media influencers, and spoke with myriad physicians about everything colonoscopy. I found myself drawn to the types of people Healio Gastroenterology brands Disruptive Innovators. In fact, two of my People to Follow were Healio award winners.
The Disruptive Innovator
That same evening, our team attended the Helio Disruptive Innovators Awards reception. There I watched as Dr. Chiang graciously received the Healio Rising Disruptive Innovator award for his work as a GI social media rock star. As the founder of the #VerifyHealthcare transparency movement, he employs social media for education and outreach for GI-related conditions. He also serves as Chief Social Media Officer of Jefferson Health/Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, Social Media Chair of the Association of Bariatric Endoscopy (ABE), Special Media Consultant to the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), and a lot more. And even though I only exchanged a few words with him, Dr. Chiang exuded kindness and determination.
A Lifetime of Disruption
Speaking of disruptors, Dr. Carol Burke of the Cleveland Clinic was named the Healio Lifetime Disruptor for 2018.
Because I am interested in gender disparities in gastroenterology, I was familiar with her reputation as a trailblazer. She was elected President of ACG in 2016 (only the third woman to serve in this role since the organization was founded in 1932). And she has openly spoken about gender issues, noting that women in GI face “inequities in pay, career advancement, and ergonomic injuries, which disproportionately affect female proceduralists.” Dr. Burke is also dedicated to raising awareness of professional burnout and exploring ways to combat this problem in GI.
Then there are Dr. Burke's clinical accomplishments. To name a few, she is past president of the Collaborative Group of the Americas on Inherited Colorectal Cancer and the Director of the Center for Colon Polyp and Cancer Prevention. She is internationally known for her expertise on inherited colon cancer syndromes and the prevention of colorectal neoplasia. At ACG 2018, Dr. Burke was selected to present the David Y. Graham Lecture lecture, which examined the role of lifestyle, genetics, and polyp characteristics in the management of patients with colorectal polyps. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Fighting for Her Life, and Yours
Stacy Hurt describes herself as “an advocate, survivor, motivator, and educator.” After meeting her in person, I can tell you that she is all that and more. Ms. Hurt was diagnosed with Stage IV colorectal cancer on her 44th birthday. She not only survived, she has become one of the loudest voices advocating for colon cancer awareness, screening, and research.
She is the strategic partnership manager for the Colon Cancer Coalition; a public speaker, fundraiser, and consultant; and mother to and advocate for her special-needs son, Emmet, who was born with a rare chromosomal abnormality. According to the Colon Cancer podcast, "her mission is to raise awareness of inclusion for all persons with disabilities and exemplify a 'keep it real' approach to fighting and beating cancer. Stacy's energy and optimism renewed by sense of urgency to educate patients and promote colonoscopy. And she's not afraid to hug a colon.