We feast on fast food, pig out on pizza, guzzle soda pop and devour candy.
We take our stomachs for granted. A gastroenterologist's life is devoted to
undoing the damage our diets inflict on us.
Gastroenterologists are doctors who specialize in diseases of the digestive
tract. These include conditions like swallowing disorders, heartburn, ulcers,
abdominal pain, weight loss, diarrhea, colitis, constipation, jaundice and
These doctors examine symptoms and diagnose digestive disorders. They will
administer various treatments to help the patient. In some cases, they may
refer the patient to a surgeon. Some gastroenterologists don't work with patients
on a day-to-day basis; instead, they do research on the digestive system.
This is a career for people who like to think. The field requires complex
decision making, an understanding of diagnostic techniques and knowledge of
increasingly complex science. Plus, it requires mastery of a growing number
of tools that allow the doctor to view inside the body (called endoscopic
"Test your intellectual boundaries," says James L. Achord, a gastroenterologist-hepatologist
in Mississippi. "Medicine is a lifelong commitment to learning. If you enjoy
learning, then you'll enjoy medicine."
Physicians work long, irregular hours. Those who are on call may make emergency
room visits or travel between their office and the hospital to care for patients.
"Take a look at your personality," says Achord. "Medicine has its disadvantages.
Sometimes you'll be inconvenienced. You'll have to like to work very hard.
But if you can put others before your interests, you'll do very well."