GI physicians increase Northwestern Medicine’s visibility to physicians, government entities and hospitals abroad, promoting Northwestern Medicine as a preferred destination for expert care for patients around the world.
Ranked No. 7 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, 2022 – 2023, the Northwestern Medicine Gastroenterology and GI Surgery Program has a long tradition of excellence in clinical care and involvement in the development and education of physician leaders in the field. As international health opportunities grow, the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology prides itself on being an ever-evolving global destination for care. They have been instrumental in advancing leading-edge practices and procedures both locally and globally.
Abdul Aziz Aadam, MD, medical director of the International Health Program at Northwestern Medicine, supports the implementation and expansion of global relationships alongside John Pandolfino, MD. Both physicians are passionate about sharing their expertise in GI to bring the skills from Northwestern Medicine to other parts of the world.
On a recent trip to the United Arab Emirates, Dr. Aadam, an interventional gastroenterologist with specialized expertise in GI oncology, taught a third space endoscopy course which included a session on achalasia, led by Dr. Pandolfino. Third space endoscopy is a minimally invasive technique to treat GI disorders, such as achalasia, and early GI cancer.
As an alternative to traditional surgery, this technique leads to better outcomes and faster recovery for patients while providing physicians who have fewer surgical resources with an advanced alternative to traditional treatment. This hands-on training gave GI specialists in the UAE an opportunity to gain skills and confidence before they incorporate this into their practice.
On the same trip, Dr. Pandolfino was a keynote speaker at a conference hosted by the Saudi Gastroenterology Association. Pre-conference sessions were held at King Faisal Hospital in Saudi Arabia where Dr. Pandolfino attended as an honored faculty member and promoted the Digestive Health Center, transplant services and Northwestern Medicine’s expertise in colorectal cancer. Both Dr. Aadam and Dr. Pandolfino strongly believe in the strategic vision of fostering physician-to-physician connections among Northwestern Medicine physicians and colleagues globally.
Mohammad Ali Abbass, MD, colon and rectal surgeon with a special interest in hereditary cancer syndromes and colon cancer genetics, and Christopher M. Moore, MD, transplant hepatologist, also attended the conference. Dr. Abbass spent his time connecting with people running cancer genetic programs at UAE hospitals, as well as at King Faisal Hospital, and exploring collaboration opportunities. His hope is to further collaborate on genetics-related research, creating registries and running high risk clinics abroad. Dr. Moore is interested in collaborating with the International Health Program to provide physician support in the UAE four times a year to evaluate patients at regional hospitals and clinics, and to offer pre- and post-liver transplant care.
Through this collaboration, physicians can become more comfortable providing care, reducing the numbers of patients who may need treatment outside of the UAE. Furthermore, strengthening post-transplant care would enable patients who received a transplant outside of the UAE to return earlier.
“Our goal is to cultivate relationships abroad between physicians by sharing expertise, creating bi-directional educational efforts and identifying shared research interests with the hope of building momentum around a robust global referral pipeline,” says Dr. Pandolfino.
Another element of the division’s global efforts involves hosting visiting scholars. Over the past 20 years, the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology has made significant strides in the area of global education training scholars from all across the world, including: France, Switzerland, Italy, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, China, Hong Kong, Korea and Australia.
Since 2020, the department has hosted six visiting scholars — with the anticipated addition of four more later this year — who want to refine their subspecialty and skillset under Dr. Pandolfino’s mentorship. Isis Araujo, MD is currently visiting from Barcelona, Spain. She is working alongside Dr. Pandolfino and focusing on refining techniques in advanced motility procedures.
Dr. Araujo’s home hospital wants to expand the motility service line under her leadership and include the techniques she’s learning in their resident training. Dr. Araujo applied to Northwestern Medicine with a project related to EndoFLIP. She will be here for the rest of 2023, and then she’ll return to Barcelona, continue her general practice and share her skillset with her colleagues and residents. Dr. Araujo will continue to research and publish work in this area of study. This is just one example of how Northwestern Medicine is furthering collaboration outside of the U.S.
“Sharing the collective expertise across Northwestern Medicine through educational efforts around the world enhances our global reputation and establishes Northwestern as a global leader in medicine,” says Dr. Aadam.
Dr. Aadam and Dr. Pandolfino continue to cultivate their relationships abroad by sharing their expertise, supporting the advancement of education and continuing to focus on patient care. The team continues to identify new partners from around the world to work with to advance GI care globally.
About the International Health Program
The International Health Program’s mission is to be a pillar for global health by delivering comprehensive and compassionate care. The program seeks to improve the health of the global community by providing patients and clinicians with access to Northwestern Medicine’s leading-edge care. Since its inception, the program’s primary focus has been to support patients from abroad seeking care at Northwestern Medicine.
The International Health team consists of coordinators, financial coordinators, interpreters and administrative staff who support patients and their families through planned or unplanned encounters at Northwestern Medicine. The program has served patients from more than 100 countries through on-site care and clinical collaboration with a variety of clinical specialties.
As the International Health Program continues to grow, a second area of focus is promoting advisory and consulting services. These global collaborations elevate the standard of care in communities through program expansion and new facility development, as well as ongoing quality monitoring and implementation planning. See Northwestern Medicine’s latest international partnership, established in Qatar.
Do you have an international patient who may benefit from care from the International Health team or want to learn more about getting involved? Email Lindsey Kreutzer, program director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about the services and support available through International Health at Northwestern Medicine.
Northwestern Medicine welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with you in caring for your patients.