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May 19, 2015

Two GI fellows victorious in debate at national conference

Pritesh Mutha

Gastroenterology fellow Pritesh Mutha

The competition went down to the wire, with both the VCU team and the Johns Hopkins team relying on their preparation to perform under pressure. In the end, VCU came out with a decisive win on a national stage. No, this wasn’t a basketball game — it was a debate at the Digestive Disease Week conference between gastroenterology fellows from the two schools.

The School of Medicine was represented by senior GI fellows Vaishali Patel, M.D., and Pritesh Mutha, M.D. They were coached by their mentor, Puneet Puri, M.D., who is an assistant professor in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. They faced off against a duo from Johns Hopkins to debate whether patients with acute alcoholic hepatitis should be denied liver transplantation outright. The two teams sparred through three rounds of competition, with Patel and Mutha eventually convincing the judges of the wisdom of their position: that transplantations in such circumstances should not be denied.

More than 14,500 researchers, physicians and academics assembled for the Digestive Disease Week conference in Washington, D.C., this May. It’s the largest gathering of professionals in the fields of gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery, and there’s no shortage of reasons to attend. “The conference is a tremendous platform to learn about the newest research, see cutting edge technology and network with leaders in the field,” said Mutha.

Vaishali Patel

Gastroenterology fellow Vaishali Patel

The size of the conference, and the qualifications of its attendees, made their debate win all the sweeter.

“Being able to participate, perform and win on a big, international stage was a huge boost of confidence,” Mutha explained, “but we also learned about critically analyzing research papers and about the difficult process of making decisions and arguments on sensitive topics.”

The debate hinged on Mutha and Patel’s ability to synthesize information from a large body of work and use that knowledge to respond to challenges and questions from the other team on the fly – all while on stage in front of colleagues, friends and leaders in the field.

The debate was organized by the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease as a pilot program designed to test the skills of GI fellows at top medical schools. The group hoped that the debate would propel fellows to further their research on a relevant topic while honing communication skills in pressure situations. The competition also featured a debate between fellows from the University of Virginia and the University of Maryland.

By Jack Carmichael

Virginia Commonwealth University
VCU Medical Center
School of Medicine
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Updated: 04/29/2016