Dr. Paulo Sakai is the 2022 recipient of the WEO Master Endoscopist Award. This honors an individual who is the leader of one or more internationally renowned endoscopy units, has notable achievement in endoscopic invention or technique, is internationally recognized within the field of GI endoscopy, and has had significant publications in GI endoscopy.

Since 1973 gastrointestinal endoscopy has been the focus of Dr. Sakai’s activities at Sao Paulo University Medical School. As in all academic centers of excellence, responsibilities are divided among patient care, teaching, and research. No fewer than 22 000 endoscopic procedures are conducted each year at this institution. Residency and fellowship programs have been available since 1974, and both of these have been eagerly attended by hundreds of professionals, who include the current leadership of major centers in Brazil and Latin America.

The school annually presents a major extramural initiative, the International Course on Therapeutic Endoscopy. This is open to the entire global professional community and has been enriched by the renowned assembly of international faculty since 1989. Speaking of this, and of the GI endoscopy service’s other activities, Dr. Sakai says:

“We are proud of our pioneering real-time satellite transmission of the course, from 2007 to 2013, to all of Latin America and additional countries in Africa. Since 2013 the same process has continued via high-definition internet. Since its inception in 2007 access has been totally free of charge for attendees. It is worth highlighting that research has not been awarded less priority. Our Service has joined a number of large international trials, and hundreds of publications have emerged along the years, many of them describing original techniques developed by our team.”

As regards WEO’s role in furthering of the field of endoscopy, Dr. Sakai notes that “By means of its committees it [WEO] has made seminal contributions both for the dissemination of new technologies and for the advancement of the quality of endoscopy in all nations. Particularly praiseworthy is its well-known engagement in Africa with humanitarian projects.”

While much progress has been made since Dr. Sakai got his start in 1973, there is always room to grow and improve. Looking ahead, Dr. Sakai shares his thoughts on how he sees the future of endoscopy:

“I was privileged to witness the growth of endoscopy since the first generation of fiberscopes, followed by video endoscopy, digital chromoendoscopy, and more recently the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics to endoscopic diagnosis and therapy. Within the gastrointestinal tract, recent breakthroughs will be translated into even earlier tracing of diseases, beyond the restrictions of the human eye. Namely, in the case of cancer, detection of early lesions will mean minimally invasive curative resection. The streamlining of robotics will enable even inexperienced endoscopists to conduct relatively complex procedures, after a short learning curve. For patients the consequences will be less risk, fewer complications, and a more predictable outcome.

The use of technologies is not an end in itself but a means to make better the life of patients, rescuing their smiles and happiness. This the most important for us and we wish it to become true!

We congratulate Dr. Sakai on these many great achievements and on all of his contributions to the endoscopy arena!

Photo: Dr. Paulo Sakai