ECCO Country Member Profiles: Greece
Ioannis Koutroubakis and Giorgos Bamias, ECCO National Representatives, Greece
Name of group: Hellenic Group for the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (EOMIFNE)
Number of active members: 191
Number of meetings per year: one (1) annual congress
President: Prof. Ioannis Koutroubakis
Secretary: Dr. Nikos Viazis
National Representatives: Prof. Ioannis Koutroubakis and Prof. Georgios Bamias
Joined ECCO in: 2003
Incidence of IBD in the country (if available):
The incidence of IBD has been estimated in older studies from Epirus and Crete regions. For UC the incidence was 5.6/8.9 per 100.000 inhabitants and for Crohn’s disease 2.0/3.0 per 100.000 inhabitants, respectively, placing Greece in the group of countries with low to moderate incidence. A recent ECCO-EpiCOM study including data from Ioannina showed incidence of UC (in the area of Ioannina for the years 2010/2011) 6.0/3.6 per 100.000 inhabitants and for CD 3.5/3.6 per 100.000 inhabitants.
What has changed since your society became an ECCO Country Member?
In 2017 a new governing charter of EOMIFNE has been placed in effect. The Governing Board consists of the President, Vice President/President elect, Secretary General, Treasurer and Liaison President (who is the Former President). Those are elected by the General Assembly and serve for 3 years. These 5 core members recruit a Scientific and an Educational Officer. The Governing Board assigns an Organizing President for its Annual Conferences among the EOMIFNE members and oversees the Scientific and Administrative aspects of it.
In 2017 an open funding process was launched with the Aim to support clinical and basic Research Projects by Greek IBD-focused scientists. The Governing Board of EOMIFNE has set as its priority the understanding and definition of the epidemiological and phenotypical characteristics that are unique to the Greek patients with IBD, based on the hypothesis that the unique geographical position and specific dietetic patterns which include the Mediterranean diet may affect the natural history of IBD in the Greek population. These may explain the generally milder course of IBD in Greece as compared to Western countries. Currently, EOMIFNE has funded 3 research proposals.
At the educational level, EOMIFNE has recently launched two new initiatives. The first is the IBD School, a 32-hours intensive course for limited number of participants with the aim to provide advanced knowledge on all aspects of IBD and in line with the recently ECCO-presented IBD curriculum. The second is the organization of meeting in several Greek cities with patients and local GPs in order to sensitize non-Gastroenterologists on the clinical manifestations of IBD and educate patients on a holostic approach to their condition.In addition EOMIFNE is actively involved in the development of national guidelines for treatment of UC and CD patients and the translation of ECCO guidelines in Greek, including the ECCO/patients guidelines.
Since EOMIFNE became member of ECCO, several members of EOMIFNE have held or currently are holding administrative positions in ECCO (Gerassimos Mantzaris, Konstantinos Katsanos). Furthermore, members of EOMIFNE have been actively involved in ECCO workshops and in guidelines committees of ECCO. EOMIFNE has also supported and facilitated the Greek participation on the ongoing i-CARE study of ECCO.
What are the benefits to you of being an ECCO Country Member?
Being a member of ECCO has been of paramount significance in several ways. ECCO has been a model organization for IBD and several of its functions can be applied on the National level. In addition, ECCO provides support through external auditors and expert advice on research efforts at the local level. It may also serve as the platform to spread research ideas from the national to the European and even the global level. It supports the educational activities and offer the opportunity to organize international conferences within Greece (recently got a positive feedback on our application for hosting one of ECCO’s Education Workshops the forthcoming spring). ECCO is supporting the education of young doctors by offering to them participation at the Advanced course during ECCO-IBD Conferences. It also helps scientists from our country to attend meetings to exchange of ideas and multinational collaboration projects. ECCO has also been very supportive to nurses, helping them to become specialized in IBD. Finally, ECCO also serves as a guide for the patient organizations.
At the clinical level, ECCO’s frequent and constantly updated guidelines provide clinicians with a roadmap to solving the multifaceted everyday problems of IBD patients. Its Congress serves as the meeting place for all IBD focused clinicians and basic researchers with the potential to gain expertise, exchange scientific ideas, and initiate multicentre research projects, thus promoting collaboration but also interpersonal relationships between individual members. Recently, with the launching of the UR-CARE project all doctors have a unique opportunity to use a common database for their patients but also integrate them into an international database, which will serve as a valuable tool for exchanging knowledge and participate in Clinical Research projects.
Is your society making use of the ECCO Guidelines?
The ECCO guidelines were translated to Greek and distributed to all interested parties. Both the original and the translated versions are easily accessible through our Website. Furthermore, in our Annual Congress any update on ECCO guidelines is thoroughly presented and discussed as part of the scientific program.
Have you developed links with other countries through your ECCO Country Membership?
- Have you developed research projects with other countries through your ECCO Country Membership?
Several members of our Group are actively participating in Research projects in close collaboration with ECCO members from other countries.
- Have you developed educational activities with other countries through your ECCO Country Membership?
As part of our Annual Congress, we have invited members of neighbor countries to present their organizational structure and scientific interests and have explored ways for common projects.
- Has your country been involved in a fellow exchange through ECCO?
We have not yet established such a formal exchange programme.
What are your main areas of research interest?
The main research interest of EOMIFNE is to understand and define the epidemiological and phenotypical characteristics that are unique to the Greek patients with IBD, based on the hypothesis that the unique geographical position and specific dietetic patterns which include the Mediterranean diet may affect the natural history of IBD in the Greek population. These may explain the generally milder course of IBD in Greece as compared to Western countries.
Does your centre or country have a common IBD database or bio bank?
There is currently no common IBD database for Greek patients. There is also no unified Biobank for IBD, although several independent centers have developed separate IBD Biobanks in recent years. Furthermore, EOMIFNE encourages all of her members to apply for access to UR-CARE in an effort to incorporate Greek IBD patients into a unified database.
What are your most prestigious/interesting past and ongoing projects?
Several Greek IBD centres are actively involved in both basic and clinical research in IBD, which are often supported by EOMIFNE from both financial and scientific perspectives. A recent EOMIFNE endorsed publication has delineated the spectrum and associations of extraintestinal manifestations in Greek IBD patients. Current research projects with EOMIFNE involvement are focusing on the effect of dietary habits of patients with IBD and on the clinical history of post-operative Crohn’s disease.
In addition EOMIFNE is actively involved in the development of national guidelines for treatment of UC and CD patients and the translation of ECCO guidelines in Greek, including the ECCO-EFCCA Patient Guidelines.
Which ECCO Projects/Activities is the group in?
Several members of EOMIFNE are holding administrative positions in ECCO (Konstantinos Katsanos). Furthermore, members of EOMIFNE are actively involved in ECCO workshops and in guidelines committees of ECCO. EOMIFNE has also supported and facilitated the Greek participation on the ongoing i-CARE study of ECCO.
What are your aims for the future?
The main aim of EOMIFNE is to improve the quality of health care for patients with IBD in Greece. For this to be achieved we will try to spread the knowledge within patients and health care providers on critical issues regarding the early recognition, appropriate diagnosis, implementation of newer techniques and incorporation of recent evidence for the optimal therapy for IBD. Our ultimate goal is to create a network between all Gastroenterologists that treat patients with IBD and unify their approach to its management.
In addition, we aim to create and fund research groups working on various projects in IBD. In particular we will try to serve as a common platform that will facilitate the collaboration of Greek IBD centres and the development of multicentric epidemiological, clinical and therapeutic studies.
How do you see ECCO helping you to fulfil these aims?
ECCO can help National Societies, including EOMIFNE, in several ways. Those include but are not limited to providing expert advice on how to initiate and execute Clinical research programmes and provide links to other National Societies so as to facilitate collaborative projects. It can also financially support basic research efforts through National societies for scientists coming from countries with less access to funding opportunities and help them to start their projects going. ECCO should continue to support the education of young doctors by offering participation at the Advanced course during ECCO-IBD Conferences and other Educational Activities.
What do you use ECCO for? Network? Congress? How do you use the things/services that ECCO has to offer?
We have taken advantage of ECCO’s Educational Programme and had recently got positive feedback on our application for hosting one of ECCO’s Education Workshops the forthcoming Spring. Since ECCO offers significant support to nurses and helps them to become specialized in IBD, we have encouraged the participation of our nurses to such activities. Finally, as ECCO involves patient organizations in decision making and designing the plan for appropriate management, we have created contact between our local groups and ECCO authorities.