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Niels Thorsgaard was born in 1948 and graduated from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1974. His training was undertaken in district hospitals outside Copenhagen from 1974 to 1978, and included one and a half years of training in gastrointestinal surgery. He then became a specialist in internal medicine after a two-year training post at the Copenhagen Municipal Hospital in 1983-1985.
Dr Thorsgaard's speciality training was done in the Gastroenterology Clinics of three Copenhagen University Hospitals (Glostrup Hospital, Hvidovre Hospital, and the State Hospital) in the periods 1978-1983 and 1985-1987.
The Glostrup Clinic's focus of interest was pancreatic disease, especially chronic pancreatitis. This also became Dr Thorsgaard's main clinical and scientific field of interest, together with malabsorption and maldigestion. During his stay he designed a fat-absorption test, based on isotopically labelled lipids. He has made a number of contributions to these subjects in international literature, and he is still actively trying to continue this work together with his trainees. Measurement of fat absorption was the subject of his doctoral thesis, which he conducted at the Copenhagen University in 1996.
The main focus of the Hvidovre Clinic was endoscopy and there, Dr Thorsgaard had one and a half years of intensive training in all sorts of diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopy.
The State Hospital is the Danish centre for treatment of complicated IBD, especially short bowel syndromes.
Dr Thorsgaard received the Danish National Diploma in Gastroenterology in 1987. In the same year he started as a Consultant in Gastroenterology at the Central District Hospital of Herning, Denmark, where he currently works. In 1991 he became the Head of the Department of Internal Medicine at the hospital. Besides his clinical work at the hospital, he is still engaged in scientific activities, mainly on pancreatic subjects, and in the teaching of students and speciality trainees in internal medicine, gastroenterology, and clinical pharmacology. He has been an Associate Professor in Clinical Pharmacology at the Aarhus University since 1998.
Dr Thorsgaard was a member of the Board of the Danish Society of Gastroenterology from 1989 to 1993. In 1992 he was appointed to represent the Danish Society in the European Union of Medical Specialists, where he has also been the International Secretary since 1997. The purpose of the EUMS is to improve and harmonize training in gastroenterology in all members countries through common rules, inspection of training centres, evaluation of national training programmes and individual training, exchange programmes and rules for CME. In 1999 Dr Thorsgaard received the Diploma of the European Board of Gastroenterology.
- What made you decide to become a gastroenterologist?
- For many years I had been an eager cyclist, until I discovered the impact of gastroenterology and proctology in this tough sport.
- Who was the teacher you admired the most?
- My mentor and most important teacher was Dr. Helge Worning from Glostrup University Hospital. He made me interested in pancreatology, and together we made lots of contributions to this topic, had lots of good and fruitful discussions, and travel to congresses. I am so fortunate still to have him as my personal friend
- Which research paper influenced you the most?
- My interest in evolving a test of fat absorption was highly inspired by a paper by Adlung and Grazokowske in Scand J Gastroenterol 1979; 14: 587-92.
- What is the most important fact that you have discovered?
- After years of research work, this led to the presentation of a nearly perfect 'Stool sample test for simultaeous estimation of lipid digestion, lipid absorption, and vitamin B12 absorption', which appeared in Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol 1991; 4: 311-15. The test, from one tiny sample of feces, allows you to estimate pancreatic fat digestion, fat absorption, and ileal B12 absorption, and thereby indirectly ileal function. It never became popular however.
- What is your greatest regret?
- After this achievement I discovered, and since regretted, that I have used so much energy on investigating the principal purpose of the gastrointestinal tract: Absorption. Only very few share this interest! Bacteria and tiny ulcerations seem much more interesting
- How do you relax?
- I love to go to theatres and cinemas. Also, besides sport, I like to create things with my hands - I am what we call a 'handyman' in the house. I also like to build fine models (e.g. for my electric Märklin train).
- What is your favorite sport?
- I am still a very active sportsman. I especially enjoy running, cycling, and kayak paddling. I have participated in a few marathons, among them the New York Marathon, and I have recently been trekking in the Himalayas.
- What is your best place in the world?
- I feel that those two very different places - New York and the Himalayas - are among my favorite places in the world.
- What is your favorite film?
- I have seen lots of good performances. The film that has impressed me most and which I have seen many times, even in recent years, is "Blow up" by Michelangelo Antonioni.
- Why did you get in involved in GastroHep.com?
- Firstly I found out about this new exciting website by knowing the Editor-in-Chief, Professor Roy Pounder, from our work in the EUMS. But at the same time, I feel that GastroHep.com is very useful and in the spirit of our organization, and that we will mutually benefit. The EUMS will use GastroHep.com to publish its ideas and GastroHep.com will hopefully benefit from many interested young European trainees. I am therefore an eager ambassador for GastroHep.com in my country