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Humanitarian of the Year: Q&A With Ashwin Ananthakrishnan, MBBS, MPH

In This Article

  • The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and providing support for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients and researchers
  • Ashwin N. Ananthakrishnan, MBBS, MPH, of Massachusetts General Hospital was named "Humanitarian of the Year" by the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation New England Chapter
  • In this Q&A, Dr. Ananthakrishnan discusses what this award means and delves into his team's research that is advancing care for IBD patients

Since its founding in 1967, the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation has played a large role in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) research. The foundation funds clinical trials to improve the quality of life for patients with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. In 2022, the New England Chapter of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation recognized Massachusetts General Hospital's Ashwin N. Ananthakrishnan, MBBS, MPH, as "Humanitarian of the Year."

Dr. Ananthakrishnan, director of the Crohn's and Colitis Center in the Digestive Healthcare Center at Mass General and associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, has dedicated his research to understanding IBD and developing the best treatment. In this Q&A, he discusses the award and how his team's research actively advances care for patients with IBD.

Q: What is your role at the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation?

Ananthakrishnan: For many years, I have served as a member of the New England Chapter's Healthcare Professional Engagement Committee (HPEC), in addition to serving on several committees within the national Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. I have contributed as a panelist at many educational events and assisted in planning patient and professional education symposia.

Q: Why is an award like this so meaningful?

Ananthakrishnan: An award like this is extremely meaningful because it is something decided on by one's peers and colleagues in the HPEC. It is a recognition not of a single event or research question but of years of commitment to advancing the field of IBD care and research, as well as our mission to improve the lives of our patients by answering important unaddressed questions.

Q: What is the focus of your research?

Ananthakrishnan: There are several areas of research that we are interested in. First, we want to understand which environmental factors, including diet and stress, affect IBD's development and clinical course. We are looking to define the mechanisms through which these factors affect inflammation so we can develop interventions to prevent disease. Second, we are committed to developing tools for precision medicine in IBD. By studying the microbiome, genetics, and other blood and fecal biomarkers, we hope to understand the biological basis of heterogeneity in the disease course and treatment response. We want to develop tools and algorithms to get each patient the right treatment as early as possible. Finally, we are interested in studying IBD in emerging and vulnerable populations, including ethnic minority groups, immigrants, and older adults.

Q: How are you working to advance care for patients with IBD?

Ananthakrishnan: Institutionally, we are working to advance care for patients with IBD throughout our multidisciplinary Crohn's and Colitis Center and providing cutting-edge specialized care to both outpatients and hospitalized patients with IBD. Perhaps most importantly, we are working to advance care through our commitment to answering the questions that our patients with IBD ask us every day—whether it is 'Why did I get IBD?' or 'How can I best manage IBD within my goals?', or 'Will this particular medicine work for me and will it be safe?'

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