AASLD staff sat down with Oren K. Fix, MD, MSc, FACP, AGAF, session moderator, to learn more about its Academic Debates session to be held at DDW® 2015. This session is free, but you must be registered for DDW to attend.

Q: This session is new this year. Who came up with the idea, and how did it come about?

A: The idea for the Academic Debates session at DDW 2015 came from a similar and highly successful long-standing CME program in Chicago supported by the American Liver Foundation (ALF). Mary Rinella, MD, one of the organizers of the ALF program, introduced the idea and is one of the organizers for the DDW program.

Q: How did you choose the two specific topics that will be debated?

A: The topics we chose are timely and controversial issues that we thought would stimulate thoughtful debate, would be challenging to GI fellows and would hold the interest of a diverse audience of trainees and seasoned providers. As with any interesting debate, there aren’t necessarily correct answers to these issues (the role of liver transplantation in alcoholic hepatitis or limiting new hepatitis C therapies to those with advanced fibrosis). It will be fun to see how the fellows develop their arguments and try to sway the judges in their favor.

Q: How were the debate participants selected?

A: We chose GI training programs affiliated with large liver transplant centers. The GI program directors were invited to participate and were asked to select a faculty mentor (coach) and 2 fellows who would debate their topic. We did not initially tell the programs their topic or which side of the issue they would be asked to defend.

Q: Other than trainees, who should attend this session?

A: This competitive program will be fun and entertaining for any DDW attendee. Given the controversial and timely nature of the topics, we hope this session will be of particular interest to providers involved in the care of alcoholic liver disease or hepatitis C.

Q: Why is it so important to teach the skill of balanced argument to practitioners who handle controversial topics?

A: In this era of patient-centered care, patients are encouraged to participate in health care decision-making and providers must be aware of the cultural and personal factors that influence patients’ choices. Patients are becoming increasingly aware of treatment choices through the Internet and direct-to-consumer advertising. Medical providers must keep an open mind about these options, particularly when there are valid reasons on both sides of an issue. Critical thinking and effective communication remain essential skills of any medical provider, and these skills can be learned, practiced and improved during training and throughout one’s career.