Gastroenterologist  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotWe 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.

dotGastroenterologists 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 cancers.

dotThese 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.

dotThis 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 techniques).

"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."

dotPhysicians 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."

At a Glance

Treat patients with digestive tract problems

  • This is a career for those who like to think
  • You can either work with patients or do research
  • Go to medical school, then get specialized training