Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Department of Medicine

Gastrointestinal Physiology and Psychology T32

Our Mission:

Functional GI and Motility disorders, which include IBS, GERD, dyspepsia, non-obstructive dysphagia, globus sensation, functional nausea/vomiting and rumination syndrome are of particular concern to gastroenterologists. These diseases have poorly understood pathophysiology, carry substantial overlap, lack reliable biomarkers, and are associated with significant impairment and few effective treatments. Clinical trials for these disorders have targeted symptom reduction or improved symptom tolerance, rather than disease modification. This approach stands in stark contrast to the scientific and clinical approach to other chronic gastrointestinal diseases (e.g. IBD, hepatitis C) whereby science in disease pathogenesis is more advanced and treatments, while not always curative, substantially decrease morbidity and mortality and improve quality of life.

The “science gap” in motility and functional GI disorders is fueled by 2 fixable problems:

  1. Research, training and practice in gastrointestinal diseases has maintained a dichotomous separation of disorders as either organic (e.g. related to inflammation, infection, malignancy) or functional (e.g. related to dysmotility, visceral hypersensitivity and psychological distress)(6). This simplistic approach has led to an inability to integrate and investigate the interactions between the major components of symptom generation and frankly forces investigators to choose their research questions according to diagnosis (eosinophilic esophagitis) and scientific approach (basic science vs. clinical research) rather than disease process (e.g. the mechanics of foregut function, visceral hypersensitivity, symptom hypervigilance).
  2. Research, training and practice in gastrointestinal diseases has failed to develop and/or effectively use well-validated markers of disease and disease processes, including both biomarkers and self-report markers acquired directly from patients. This measurement gap not only negatively impacts our ability to characterize our patient populations—it limits our understanding of the pathophysiology underlying these conditions (we can’t know what we don’t measure or observe), limits the value of translational research, results in the use of inadequate endpoints for clinical trials and restricts the development of effective, tailored therapies.

 The specific aims or objectives of this training grant are:

  1. To develop research scientists who are ready to conduct independent research driven by hypotheses that incorporate biomechanical, neuro-immunological, and psychophysiological models of functional and motility disorders.
  2. To mentor the next generation of gastroenterology researchers who will require a more fluid interface between pathophysiologic mechanisms and clinically relevant patient outcomes.

The combined training of predoctoral candidates in biomedical engineering and psychology with postdoctoral clinical fellows in gastroenterology and psychology emphasizes the objective of the specific aims as a continuum between research and patient care.

John Pandolfino, MD
Program Director

Michael Wolf, PhD/MPH
Program Director

Deborah Everds
Research Administrator

Candice Fulkerson
Acting Fellowship Coordinator