History of the Department

The Yale School of Medicine Section of Digestive Diseases traces its roots back to 1947, when Dr. Gerald Klatskin performed the first liver biopsy at Yale. Shortly thereafter he founded the Liver Study Unit, which was the first such unit in the country. Dr. Klatskin's efforts were complemented in 1955, when Dr. Howard Spiro was recruited here to found the Gastroenterology Unit. Dr. Spiro directed this unit for nearly three decades, during which time he founded the Yale Affiliated Gastroenterology Program, the forerunner of our Department's Yale Affiliated Hospitals Program. This visionary program unified GI practice, education, and clinical research in the major hospitals across the state of Connecticut. According to Dr. Spiro, "The concept was unique at that time and many of today's affiliated residency programs were really built on it." Dr. James Boyer, who trained under Dr. Klatskin, was recruited back to Yale, and then combined the Liver and Gastroenterology Units into the Section of Digestive Diseases in 1982. Dr. Boyer was Chief of the combined section for nearly 15 years, followed by Dr. James Anderson, and most recently by Dr. Michael Nathanson, who became Chief in 2003.

The Section and its predecessors have long been and continue to be at the forefront nationwide in terms of research, clinical care, and training. For example, nearly 300 individuals have completed fellowships here over the past half century, many of whom have gone on to become section chiefs, department chairs, and deans. Click here to see the list of Yale GI alumni who currently serve or have served as chiefs, deans, and presidents.

The Digestive Diseases Section continues to attract outstanding individuals for postdoctoral fellowship training to this day. For example, six of our current fellows were chief residents, and chief residents from Yale have joined our program for three years in a row. According to recent statistics from NIH, the Section has the most NIDDK funding of any digestive disease section in the country, and ranks sixth in total number of grants.

The Section has over 30 full-time faculty, including physicians based at Yale and at the West Haven VA, plus research faculty. Two of our faculty members have received the AASLD Distinguished Achievement Award, which is the highest form of recognition offered by this society, and one of our faculty members has received this award from the AGA. The section is home of one of only a handful of NIH-sponsored Liver Centers nationwide. Our clinical program is similarly accomplished. For example, our interventional endoscopists performed over 2,000 advanced procedures this past year, making our program the busiest in New England. The Digestive Diseases Section is committed to remain a leader in research, patient care, and teaching.