By Dr Sharmila Sachithanandan, Chairperson, WIGNAP

Women in Gastroenterology Network Asia-Pacific, known by its acronym WIGNAP, held a historical session during the World Congress of GI Endoscopy – ENDO 2017 in Hyderabad, India, in February 2017. With hundreds of enthusiastic delegates from across 20 countries, literally all corners of the world were in attendance.

WIGNAP was established in June 2014 by a group of pioneer female gastroenterologists from ten Asia-Pacific countries: Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand. The principle aim was to create a professional networking platform for female gastroenterologists across the vast and diverse continent of Asia, specifically with regards to developing training opportunities and mentoring of trainees and to cultivate and hone their leadership skills. In many parts of the world, this is already in place: the American Society of Gastroenterology (ASGE) and the United European Gastroenterology (UEG) have long prioritized the importance of equal opportunities for women. In Asia, prior to WIGNAP, there was no such forum for women specialists to meet, collaborate and share their professional experiences and challenges. The other objective of WIGNAP is to focus on women’s GI health – and advocate for improved and adequate access to such care in this part of the world.

Since 2014, WIGNAP has held parallel sessions at the Asia Pacific Digestive Week (APDW) in Bali (2014), Taiwan (2015) and Kobe (2016). WIGNAP has also held training workshops in Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS) and ERCP across several Asia Pacific countries.

The session held during ENDO 2017 went exceptionally well. Despite his hectic schedule, Dr Nageshwar Reddy, President of the World Congress, kindly graced the occasion with an opening address and his wife Dr Carol Reddy (herself an accomplished dermatologist), said a few inspiring words too. Participants to the session also enjoyed the presence of Dr David Carr-Locke (Past ASGE president), who offered encouraging remarks, as did Dr Dong Wan Seo (WEO Secretary General).

The session included several speakers: Dr Annette Fritscher-Ravens (Germany) and Dr Anand Sahai (Canada), gave candid, life-inspiring lectures. David Devonshire and Payal Saxena (Australia), Than Than Swe and Than Than Aye (Myanmar), Nonthalee Pausawasdi and Thawee Ratanachu-EK (Thailand), Shaesta Mehta (India), Joyce Peetermans (USA), Ryan Ponnudurai and Ida Hilmi (Malaysia) also spoke during the session.

The WIGNAP symposium included an exciting interactive panel discussion, with great participation from those in attendance. Chairpersons included Dr Maryam Al Khatry (UAE), Dr Hafeza Aftab (Bangladesh) and Dr Rupa Banerjee (India).The feedback received was very encouraging, especially from female trainees and residents, who felt more reassured and inspired – highlighting that these types of initiatives are very much needed. The next WIGNAP gathering will be at APDW 2017 in Hong Kong. Hope to see you all there!