Medical school: Ponce School of Medicine, Puerto Rico
Years in practice: 2007-present
Why did you choose gastroenterology?
My love for gastroenterology started in my fourth year of medical school. It was a natural fit for me. Gastroenterology provides a well-balanced blend of cognitive skills,
intellectual challenges, manual skills (endoscopy) and a broad array of pathology that goes from pre-cancerous conditions to cancers as well as nutritional, auto-immune, metabolic and infectious disorders. It also covers pancreatic and liver disorders. In addition, we are in the forefront of cancer prevention with colon cancer screening and Barrett's esophagus ablation. It's good to feel that I am doing my part to decrease the incidence of cancer.
What's the best thing someone can do for their intestinal health? What's the worst?
In general (not only for gastroenterology), we should exercise regularly and eat a well-balanced diet with portion control. In terms of intestinal health, fiber and antioxidants are paramount, but they should also be part of a healthy lifestyle. There are specific things that pertain to the intestinal tract that we should not ignore. I do refer to the need for colon cancer screening and evaluation of ongoing acid reflux symptoms. The worst is to ignore any abnormal body symptoms and to blame it on "wear and tear or aging."
When and how often should people get a colonoscopy?
Colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related death for men and women (yes, more common than prostate and breast cancer) without gender preference. It affects 150,000 new patients every year, and 80 percent of those patients do not have a known family history of colon cancer. Therefore, everybody should be screened for colon cancer. That starts at age 50 if there's no family history or age 40 (or 10 years younger than the youngest person with cancer or polyps) if there is family history of colon cancer or polyps.