Informing and Caring for the Community:
Anne Arundel County Gastroenterology

OK, let’s get this out of the way first. Yes, Inside Annapolis is going... inside gastroenterology (diagnosing and treating diseases of the digestive tract) with an article on Anne Arundel Gastroenterology Associates. (Polite laughter here.)

We’re profiling one of the leading medical groups in Anne Arundel County. As noted in the “Citation” recently awarded by the Governor, Anne Arundel Gastroenterology Associates provides “state of the art service... setting the standard for gastroenterology” in Maryland.

The Governor’s recognition is only one accolade among many for the work of Anne Arundel Gastroenterology Associates. Patients, too, enthusiastically express their appreciation. Pat Minnigh, a member of the County’s Celiac Support Group, acknowledges the hours donated by the doctors of AAGA. “We appreciate the doctors’ support, their willingness to address the group and answer questions from around the world on our ‘Ask a Doc’ portion of the Celiac Support Group web site; they also come in and talk to our organization whenever we need them.” Celiac disease is an autoimmune response triggered by the body’s adverse reaction to gluten protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Even oats are off the celiac’s diet. The disease is known to occur in 1% of the population, but misdiagnosed and undiagnosed cases would probably bring the occurrence rate higher. Symptoms are severe and, if not treated, life-threatening over time. Until recently, celiac disease was little known and symptoms were often misdiagnosed. The doctors at AAGA are working to change that by helping to educate the public and support victims of the disease. The ten physicians of AAGA work on many fronts to raise the public’s awareness of conditions that are specific to the digestive system.

Donna Wade speaks for another group of patients who have been given new hope for normal lives by the medical work of Anne Arundel Gastroenterologists Associates. “Dr. [Suzanne] Sankey is wonderful. She saw me through some very difficult times while treating my diverticulitus,” says Donna Wade. Diverticulitus and diverticulosis are conditions caused by abnormal weakenings of the wall of the intestines. The condition can become very painful and debilitating if not treated.

Donna Wade says, “She [Dr.Sankey] explains everything to me; she takes her time and talks to me. When I see her around town she remembers who I am and asks about my children... I’ve been very sick for 23 years, and Dr. Sankey knows what to do. She gets right to the point. And the staff [at AAGA] reminds me of everything I need to do and when I need to do it. I don’t have to worry I’ve forgotten something important.” Dr. Sankey meets with local obstetricians, advising her colleagues in obstetrics on the changes and problems with the digestive system during pregnancy.

On another important front, Dr. John Newman has taken the campaign to diagnose and treat colorectal cancer into high risk communities, the elderly, and the African American community, where colorectal cancer has increased 46% over recent years. He has spoken at St. Philips Episcopal Family Life Center and at other community meetings.

Dr. Anthony Calabrese was instrumental in making Maryland one of only 16 states that require insurance companies to cover the costs of colorectal cancer screening. Dr. Calabrese has served for years on the Maryland Colorectal Advisory Committee for the State of Maryland.

Perhaps you’ve heard of crohns disease or know someone afflicted with colitis or irritable bowel syndrome. These conditions have no cure. As many as two million Americans suffer with these diseases. The Crohns and Colitis Foundation of Maryland calls on the expertise of Dr. William Cassidy. He addresses community meetings set up by the Foundation, offering counsel and answering the questions of affected patients and their families.

What does all this volunteer work tell us? It says, this group of physicians shares its knowledge and skill beyond the tidy confines of its state-of-the-art clinic. These physicians forego their personal activities to donate their time and skills to inform and improve the health of Anne Arundel County residents.

After twenty years, AAGA has a new home.An uncluttered,two-story, red brick building surrounded by young shrubs and neatly painted parking spaces stands where once strawberry vines, corn stalks and a rusty red tractor guarded a ramshackle vegetable stand. “We [AAGA] have had this vision for some time,” says Doug Dykman. “We wanted to bring all our skills and equipment under one roof, so we wouldn’t have to waste time. We bought this land on Bestgate Road over fourteen years ago. We knew then what we wanted. When everything is in place, we hope to be able to help our patients in every way we can think of, with every service they need to diagnose and treat any conditions of the digestive tract.” Doctor Dykman and his partners have a personal as well as a professional investment in the practice they’ve built.

The new offices for Anne Arundel Gastroenterology Associates are located at 820 Bestgate Road, almost directly across from the Annapolis Mall. Four of the original locations have been merged in this one site, though the Severna Park location on Ritchie Highway remains open. All ten gastroenterologists have their offices on Bestgate. They’re just down the hall from the 15 examination and recovery areas, managed by five professionally staffed nursing stations. The equipment, of course, is cutting-edge.

The new Bestgate building also houses the Maryland Center for Digestive Health where surgical procedures, once performed at the Giddings Ave. location, are now done. The idea is to eliminate, as much as possible, the need for patients and doctors to run from place to place to be tested, examined, diagnosed or treated. As Dr. Dykman says, “We’ve brought it all together.”

What exactly are we talking about here?

Gastroenterology deals with health issues related to the largest portion of your body, your digestive system: the esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, small and large intestines and rectum. Conditions such as hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, irritable bowel, ulcers, heartburn and hemorrhoids are some of the conditions treated by gastroenterologists. Colorectal cancer can be diagnosed by a thorough gastroenterology examination. (For further information, begin your research at the Patient Center of the American Gastroenterology Association.)

From this layman’s review, it’s easy to see just how vital is the work of these doctors. The time of embarrassed giggles and denial has passed. Gastroenterology is taking its place as an important, respected branch of medicine, both for maintenance of health and treatment of disease. They are in the public eye now and have the public’s ear. AAGA is poised to use that public attention wisely.

You can be sure of the most timely and accurate attention to your health at the Anne Arundel Gastroenterology Associates’ facility on Bestgate Road in Annapolis. Their phone is 410-224-2116 and the web site


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