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Digestive Diseases

July 11, 2023

Loren Laine, MD, section chief

Joseph Lim, MD, clinical chief (liver)

Hamita Sachar, MD, clinical chief (gastroenterology)

Celebrating 75 Years of Hepatology at Yale

The Yale Liver Center is one of the premier research centers for hepatology in the country, and one of only three such centers sponsored by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. First supported by the NIH in 1984, the Yale Liver Center was recently funded for another five-year period. Yale celebrated “75 Years of Hepatology” in February 2022 with a day-long event featuring international leaders in the field. Among its many significant accomplishments, the Yale Liver Center has supported the development of a more effective technique for diagnosing spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, an infection of the abdominal fluid that affects many patients with cirrhosis; the discovery that the microbiome can affect the progression of fatty liver disease to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis; and devised a method for measuring the amount of pressure build-up in the liver due to portal hypertension that is now considered the gold standard.

Gastroenterology Hospitalist Program

The new Gastroenterology Hospitalist Program has greatly improved inpatient care and fellowship training. Yale started introducing these physicians across Yale New Haven Health in 2019. As emerging leaders in this new field, Yale Digestive Diseases faculty members led the first national conference on inpatient gastroenterology in December 2021. Yale’s GI hospitalists provide increased efficiency in endoscopic operations, improve interdisciplinary care coordination, and bring specialized knowledge and expertise to the management of GI emergencies and complex gastrointestinal illnesses.

Honors and Awards

Tamar Taddei, MD, was named chief of Digestive Diseases at the Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System in 2022. Taddei also is the director of the Liver Cancer Program at VA Connecticut.

Taddei’s research focuses on outcomes in liver diseases, specifically cirrhosis and liver cancer, both of which are prevalent in the VA population. She takes over from Guadalupe Garcia-Tsao, MD. Internationally recognized, Garcia-Tsao received the 2021 Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award from the American Liver Foundation.

Silvia Vilarinho, MD, PhD, has been appointed associate director of the Yale Internal Medicine Physician-Scientist Training Program. As a program leader, she will assist in the recruitment and training of the next generation of physician-scientists. Vilarinho uses genetics, genomics, and human samples to investigate the molecular basis of liver diseases of unknown etiology.

Michael Nathanson, MD, PhD, director of the Yale Liver Center, was honored for his sustained scientific contributions to the field of liver disease and the scientific foundations of hepatology by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) in November 2022. Nathanson, previously the section chief of Digestive Diseases at Yale for 15 years, received the AASLD’s Distinguished Service Award.

Renaming the Klatskin/Boyer Lecture

For 32 years, the Section of Digestive Diseases and the Yale Liver Center have honored Gerald Klatskin, MD, who founded the Liver Study Unit at Yale School of Medicine in 1947, with a lectureship in his name. In 2022, the lectureship added the name of James L. Boyer, MD, who trained with Klatskin. Boyer is the founder and director emeritus of the Yale Liver Center and oversaw the national and international expansion of Yale Hepatology.

Growing the Section

The section has been dramatically expanding its gastroenterology programs with new positions in inflammatory bowel disease, weight-loss management, functional gastroentestional (GI) disorders, motility, advanced endoscopy, GI cancer genetics, and general gastroenterology. The section has been expanding its faculty and programs, with 33 new ladder-track faculty hired in the past four years. The section continues to enhance its programs in hepatology, with new faculty who specialize in fatty liver disease, cholestatic liver disease, hepatocellular carcinoma, and transplantation.

New clinical sites have opened throughout Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island—most recently a digestive diseases hub in North Haven designed for clinical care and to support clinical research, patient education, and even healthy nutrition with a state-of-the-art teaching kitchen.

The section continues to maintain its longstanding reputation for excellence in research, recruiting a number of young investigators to fill its research pipeline. In the last two years, Digestive Diseases has added seven junior faculty who have NIH K awards or other federally funded career development awards The section also is building a liver home to provide multidisciplinary care with all the necessary wraparound services to improve outcomes and reduce readmissions for patients with cirrhosis.

Submitted by Julie Parry on July 10, 2023