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How Do I Become a Digestive Health Specialist?

Nicole Long
Nicole Long

An individual hoping to become a digestive health specialist should follow an educational path necessary to be a doctor. During and after medical school, additional education and experience surrounding digestive health specialties should be the focus of internships and residency. Candidates for this type of health care job should also possess excellent communication skills and be able to demonstrate empathy.

Digestive health specialists are often referred to as gastroenterologists. They have acquired the skills and experience necessary to identify diseases and conditions of the digestive system. In addition, gastroenterologists are qualified to conduct tests related to diagnosing and developing a treatment plan for digestive health issues, such as colonoscopy and endoscopy. Common conditions encountered in the profession include ulcers, hernias, and colon cancer.

A diagram of the digestive system.
A diagram of the digestive system.

Embarking on a path to become a digestive health specialist involves extensive education. After the successful completion of an undergraduate degree program, preferably in a relevant field such as biology or chemistry, you will need to apply and be accepted to medical school. Competition for entrance is stiff and only those with the best transcripts and admission test scores are admitted.

Medical school typically lasts four years and will help prepare you for a wide variety of options in the field of medicine. The first couple of years are usually focused on general knowledge required to succeed in any medical specialty, such as anatomy, pathology, and medical ethics. Students then rotate through various medical specialties, such as internal medicine, emergency medicine, and gynecology, to round out the remainder of schooling. After medical school, candidates typically take a medical licensing exam to certify that they are qualified to practice medicine.

If you hope to become a digestive health specialist, you should take part in a residency program focused on gastroenterology. This provides medical school graduates with additional on-the-job training to help prepare them for practice in a specialty field. Additional testing is required to become licensed in a particular field, such as gastroenterology, and residency training should help candidates pass the examination to qualify as digestive health specialists. As you continue your career, you will also need to stay abreast of all advances and discoveries in the field through participation in continuing education programs.

Beyond the education and experience needed to become a qualified digestive health physician, you also often need to possess some specific personality traits. You will need to communicate effectively to make sure patients understand their conditions, and fully understand the treatment options available for optimum outcomes. In addition, the ability to empathize with patients who are concerned about their health is essential for those pursuing any career in medicine.

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    • A diagram of the digestive system.
      By: Balint Radu
      A diagram of the digestive system.