July 6, 2020

Kerri Novak | Academic, gastroenterologist and trailblazer

The passion Dr. Kerri Novak, MD, has for her work has helped UCalgary become a leader in training gastroenterologists globally
Dr. Kerri Novak, MD
Dr. Kerri Novak, MD

Inspired while working in gastrointestinal radiology in Calgary, Dr. Kerri Novak, MD, pursued training in intestinal ultrasound (IUS) in Germany in 2012. She returned to Calgary to establish the first inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) clinic in Canada to provide routine IUS for patients with IBD.

Novak has also developed a research program for IUS to better understand the use and impact, and provides IUS training to physician trainees.

Today, the University of Calgary regularly hosts gastroenterologists from all over the world for training, and there are seven adult and pediatric centres across Canada using IUS to monitor IBD patients in clinic.

IUS uses ultrasound technology to directly visualize the gastrointestinal tract. It can be performed at the bedside in clinic by trained gastroenterologists as a low-cost, non-invasive monitoring tool for patients with IBD. It is used as part of an initial clinic evaluation and in follow up of IBD to evaluate disease activity, gut function and complications related to progressive disease.

IUS is effective for evaluating response to drug therapy, shown to impact clinical decisions to guide therapeutic optimization / de-escalation in up to 60 per cent of cases where implemented. It is currently being developed as a tool used to evaluate the response to investigational therapies in pharmaceutical clinical trials.

In 2018, the cost of IBD care in Canada was estimated to exceed 1.2 billion. Bowel endoscopy is invasive and requires preparation, making it difficult to repeat for routine monitoring. The small bowel is difficult to reach with endoscopy, often only reachable by fitting a balloon over an endoscope to access hard-to-reach areas farther up into the small intestine, which is more costly and can be more challenging for patients.

Novak’s research program includes a local patient database, as well as a number of active, funded projects to evaluate the accuracy, standardize measurement and report treatment outcomes.

She is an advocate for ‘health literacy’ among IBD patients. IUS can help patients understand their condition, how to manage it and their prognosis. This is fundamental to enabling shared decision making between patients and providers and using IUS as a tool to engage patients about their disease and plans for management.