Education and Enrichment

John Kao, MD
John Kao, MD Director, Enrichment Program

Enrichment Program                         

The UMCGR Enrichment Program is designed to enhance the existing highly vibrant intramural educational and research environment at the University of Michigan related to the study of gastrointestinal and liver diseases. UMCGR joins the efforts of the:

Visiting Professor Series

The purpose of the Visiting Professor Series is to provide UMCGR members the opportunity 1) to invite high profile research investigators to develop new research initiatives and facilitate networking, and 2) to give trainees opportunities to seek career advice and showcase their own work. In addition to formal presentations, the visiting professors meet with faculty and fellows. The Enrichment Program complements our ongoing Visiting Faculty Program in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology (6 visitors per year), managed by Dr. Hari Conjeevaram. Whereas the Divisional program often focuses on inviting individuals for a variety of indications (e.g., clinical expertise, stature, programmatic issues, scientific excellence, etc.), the UMCGR Enrichment program focuses principally on individuals complementing current UMCGR investigative efforts. In this respect, the two programs are highly integrated and complementary.

Intramural Faculty Speaker Program

Speaking assignments for the intramural weekly Monday Conference is rotated amongst the UMCGR faculty and trainees. Many of the seminars and journal clubs are given by fellows or graduate students providing updates on work in progress. In addition, 6 slots are devoted to academic skills workshops (topics including Grant Writing, How to publish in high impact journals, Mentoring, Presenting your work at national meetings, and Ethics). Also, in April each year, up to two slots are devoted to rehearsal for oral presentations at Digestive Disease Week. The Enrichment Program Director and the Center Administrator coordinate the intramural part of the seminar series.

Annual Winter Retreat

UMCGR sponsors an annual center-wide event that is an integral part of the Enrichment Program. This two-day annual Winter Retreat includes an academic scientific workshop for Pilot Feasibility recipients, training grant investigators, and a mini symposium with keynote speaker (The Yamada Lectureship). The on-campus location and decompressed schedule provide an opportunity for members to exchange ideas, establish new collaborations, and hear about exciting scientific developments. This minisymposium provides a great opportunity for cross-fertilization of ideas between individual research interest groups. Of note, starting 2013, the members of the Midwest DDRC Alliance were also invited to participate in our Winter retreat. Trainees supported by Pilot Feasibility from other Centers are invited to participate in the academic workshops and to present short talks and posters.

Academic Scientific Workshop

A key component of our annual Winter Retreat has been to organize a minisymposium around a topic of significant interest to the UMCGR members and to invite the Center's Pilot Feasibility awardees. With the formation of the Midwest DDRC Alliance in 2013, the Winter Retreat's minisymposium was expanded to include a new Midwest DDRCC Consortium Academic Workshop the day before the Center's minisymposium. Pilot Feasibility awardees of all DDRC Alliance members presented a synopsis of their P/F proposals and future research plans and received valuable research and career development feedback from directors and established investigators of the DDRC Alliance. We will continue to have the Academic Scientific Workshop as part of our Annual Retreat separate from the Midwest DDRCC Consortium meeting as it rotates to be hosted by other DDRC centers.


The goal of the annual Winter Retreat Minisymposium is to provide a vehicle for UMCGR members and associates to discuss science in a relaxed location. The minisymposium includes selected presentations by University of Michigan investigators and an external keynote speaker (The Yamada Lectureship Speaker) is featured. A theme is selected each year by the Center Executive Committee. The retreat ends with a poster session over lunch when all other center's research updates and core services are presented. 

Mini-Sabbatical Program

A valuable component of the UMCGR Enrichment Program is the Center's Mini-Sabbatical program. This program allows members to spend 4-8 weeks working in an extramural academic or industrial laboratory setting to learn new techniques, to acquire knowledge regarding new model development, or to finalize a collaborative investigation where the presence of the PI is essential for data interpretation and/or finalization of the project. This program provides opportunities for investigators to strengthen their research skills and knowledge. Funding is provided by Center member's own department.

UMCGR Interactions with Extramural DDRCCs

UMCGR in its most recent funding cycle hosted two annual Academic Workshops as part of the development of a Midwest DDRCC Alliance. These workshops coincide with the Center's Winter Retreat.