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World Gastroenterology Organisation
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Thirsty for knowledge: Gastroenterology training in South America

Wherever there are challenges, it seems, the WGO is there to meet them, bringing whatever resources it can to bear on the advancement of gastroenterology and gastrointestinal health. South America is no exception to this. In March 2007, the WGO conducted a third annual training course in La Paz, Bolivia and opened a Training Center in La Plata, Argentina.

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The Training Center in Gastroenterology and Digestive Endoscopy for Latin America in La Paz, Bolivia and is supported by the WGO and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). It is headed by Dr. Guido Villa-Gomez, who put together a remarkable program for the Third International Course on Advances in Gastroenterology and Digestive Endoscopy on 13–27 March 2007. The course exemplified the WGO’s efforts in specialist training, and could serve as a model for efforts on other continents.

Twenty-eight young physicians from nine South American countries, plus one from Mexico, took part. Eighteen had received JICA scholarships and two had WGO scholarships. In addition, four students were recipients of WGO scholarships for 6 months of hands-on training in therapeutic endoscopy. A total of 14 visiting faculty members from six countries contributed to the course’s international flavor.

The 2-week program included 51 lectures, six interactive seminars, two workshops, six live demonstrations, three video forums, and 10 country reports. A highlight of the program was a weekend spent in Copacabana on the shore of Lake Titicaca, where the entire student group, eight visiting professors, and the La Paz faculty provided outpatient consultations, ultrasonography, endoscopic studies, biopsies, and laparoscopic surgery (six patients) free of charge to the local Aymara population.

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Dr. Villa-Gomez and his local faculty produced a most intensive and comprehensive course, which provided both the clinical science and the hands-on experience needed to offer the students outstanding opportunities. Also to be commended are the perseverance and commitment of the students - 28 young male and female physicians, who maintained their zeal and high level of interest throughout long days of lectures, demonstrations, and patient evaluations.

During the training course, organizers accommodation arrangements and social events served to bring students from multiple countries and disparate cultures together, forming many new friendships that bode well for the future of the medical profession throughout South America.

The new WGO Training Center in La Plata, Argentina, has a wonderful faculty and well-equipped facilities and is doing a remarkable job of providing training in advanced endoscopic techniques. It is a welcome addition to the Training Centers and is offering scholarships for 2-day training courses and longer and for 6 month courses from 2008.

Both the course in La Paz and the Center in La Plata exemplify what may be achieved when international resources work in concert with local knowledge and passion.