As the global home of endoscopy, the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) was long in need of a training facility worthy of its stellar reputation. After nine years of planning, fundraising and building, the organization’s concept for a state-of-the-art Institute for Training & Technology (IT&T) finally came to fruition in October, when the doors to the $20 million, 42,000-square-foot gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy training facility were opened to ASGE members, donors and the local community of Downers Grove, Ill. The IT&T uses cutting-edge technologies to foster the development, training and adoption of new techniques in order to improve endoscopic skills and advance patient care.

Technology With a Global Reach

The new facility, situated on a 3.5-acre plot outside of downtown Chicago, is considered by many of ASGE’s 12,000 members to be a game-changer in endoscopic care and interactive education.

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“The old facility in Oak Brook was essentially office space that we rented and pretty much set up folding tables in, so it was not very well set up for training,” ASGE President Kenneth K. Wang, MD, said. “Space was relatively tight and room sizes weren’t ideal for doing hands-on instruction.”
 
The new center is equipped with 2,800-square-foot laboratory facilities that house hands-on training stations using endoscopy towers, simulators, fluoroscopy machines and other training equipment.

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The new center functions as both a live and virtual learning environment, equipped with 2,800-square-foot laboratory facilities that house hands-on training stations using endoscopy towers, simulators, fluoroscopy machines and other training equipment.

“We can now house up to 16 groups of four people who all have the ability to see and hear our centralized teaching station,” Dr. Wang said. “It has become a great way to ensure consistency in our teaching.”

The IT&T also boasts a lecture hall that seats more than 100 and has the capability to broadcast and receive interactive training between the auditorium, meeting rooms and bio-skills lab. The auditorium streamlines long days of training, eliminating the need for participants to shuttle between the Oak Brook facility and conference rooms at the local hotel.

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But what truly gives the IT&T the capacity to function as a global home for endoscopists is its real-time, two-way broadcast capability via Internet2 and satellite. The state-of-the-art connections within its walls allow the center to broadcast and receive live transmissions and presentations nationally or internationally, thus making it possible for students around the world to attend an ASGE class.
 
“It’s now possible to do a virtual course, where attendees can participate from England and interact with the faculty. We’ve already had some international students participate in lectures,” Dr. Wang said.

Evolving Practices

IT&T’s board members are the first to concede that even the most state-of-the-art technology is futile without the guidance of top-tier gastroenterologists who stay on top of evolving practices. Looking throughout 2014 and beyond, ASGE courses will address new frontiers in endoscopy practices, including new methods for reaching the gallbladder in patients who have had bariatric surgery, new stitching devices for treatment of perforations in the GI tract and new mucosal dissection techniques for removing transmural tumors, among other areas.

And as endoscopic procedures become more complex, a major component of the IT&T facility is team-based training within the lab.

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ASGE’s Institute for Training & Technology (IT&T) boasts a lecture hall that seats more than 100 and has the capability to broadcast and receive interactive training between the auditorium, meeting rooms and bio-skills lab.

“You often can’t do a procedure by yourself anymore. It really requires a team effort,” Dr. Wang said. “Because of that, we always advise groups to come in and train.”

ASGE encourages physicians to bring in their nurses and assistants so that they also can master the technical components of their roles in endoscopy.

Assessment of Skills

Another component of evolving best practices is skills assessment. Until recently, there had been no formal pathways for established endoscopists to develop new skills, such as endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR), until ASGE unveiled its STAR (Skills, Training, Assessment, Reinforcement) Certificate Program.

“What we’ve found is that people really want to improve,” Dr. Wang said. “And now we’ve given them an opportunity to learn and receive critique.”

With the ASGE’s first STAR Certificate Program in EMR, physicians may choose to pursue a Certificate of Completion in the Lower GI module only, or both the Lower and Upper GI modules. At the end of the program, participants receive a transcript of the activities they have completed and their performance results on the cognitive and skills assessment components of the program. Participants who pass the assessments components may use their transcripts to obtain privileges within their practice setting. When the new IT&T facility opened in October, the first STAR course, which was offered last month, was already sold out—a true testament to the eagerness of gastroenterologists to improve their skills and provide better patient care.

From Concept to Reality

When concepts for the IT&T were laid out nearly a decade ago, better patient care was at the heart of every discussion.

“People realized that a lot of the issues that the government has with medical care has to do with the quality of the care that patients are getting and the training of physicians,” Dr. Wang said. “Everyone recognized the need for an education facility where we can ensure that everyone has the proper training and qualifications.”

The initial hope was to break ground on the new facility in 2008. It was a year when the economic situation changed drastically, and financing the project would have been extremely challenging, if not impossible. The ASGE IT&T Capital Campaign was the first fundraising effort of its kind in the organization’s 72-year history, and its goal was ambitious. But the support from ASGE members and commercial sponsorship was nothing short of amazing.

“Our members and partners came through like gangbusters and really exceeded expectations,” Dr. Wang said. The gastroenterology community and its partners recognized the urgency in supporting the campaign, and everyone rose to action. “I could not have imagined better support,” he noted.

A similar sentiment was shared by ASGE past presidents Thomas M. Deas Jr., MD, Gregory G. Ginsberg, MD, and M. Brian Fennerty, MD, and the many other board members, faculty and sponsors of other leading health care organizations when the IT&T finally opened its doors to the community. Sheltered by a beautiful, high-tech, world-class facility, ASGE’s vision of leading the way to a better future for endoscopists and their patients was, at last, solidified. It was a proud moment of reflection for all involved.

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