Lauren A. Beste, MD
University of Washington
What inspired you to choose hepatology?
I am a general internist by training, not a hepatologist. However, I have developed clinical and research expertise in liver disease and have been welcomed by the AASLD community to an amazing degree. I enjoy all aspects of our complex patient population – everything from prevention of liver disease, lifestyle counseling, management of liver disease complications, and end of life care. I very much still identify with my internal medicine roots, but AASLD has become a second professional home for me. It’s been gratifying to learn from and collaborate with such enthusiastic and generous colleagues.
What is your professional area of focus? (research, educator, clinician, a combination, etc.)
I am an academic internist with a combination of clinical, teaching, and research duties. I practice both in a general medicine setting as well as in hepatology clinic, including as the co-Director of the interdisciplinary fatty liver disease clinic at my facility. I also maintain a busy telemedicine practice using the Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) model.
What moment(s) in your career have you been most proud of? (an achievement, award, research, etc.)
I am based in the US Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA has made incredible strides in eradicating hepatitis C, and now we are moving on to tackle fatty liver. I am really proud to be part of the health care system with the best outcomes for viral hepatitis in the US (not to mention superior outcomes for many other conditions including diabetes, homeless care, and mental health care to name a few).
Did you have a mentor(s)? How was mentorship impactful for your career ? Are you a mentor?
I have had many superb mentors, several of whom are GI or hepatology specialists. My long-standing research mentor is Dr. George Ioannou and my clinical hepatology mentor is Dr. Michael Chang. I owe much of whatever success I’ve had to these and other mentors pushing me to develop my interests and accept new challenges. My mentors have encouraged me as a lifelong learner and have supported me in trying new roles, especially as a generalist working in a specialty environment. I try to carry forward my mentors’ spirit of innovation and convey the same support to my own mentees.
What are some of the challenges facing hepatologists today? How do you think some of these issues can be addressed?
The advent of COVID-19 has pushed the entire medical system to the limit, hepatology included. Besides the obvious disruption of daily live, like everyone, one of my biggest challenges has been staying in touch with my patients when they can’t come in to see me as often. Video telehealth has been a great help but I am always looking for new ways to improve care, encourage multidisciplinary involvement, and help my patients stay on track to better health despite the barriers to face-to-face care. Another enormous challenge of COVID-19 has surrounded teaching trainees effectively via remote platforms. There have been stumbling blocks, but I think we as an educational system are learning to improve. I hope the field can hold to some of these new skills after the COVID-19 crisis ends. It would be amazing to learn virtually as a global community, instead of siloing education in a few tertiary centers.
What’s a piece of advice (career or personal) you’ve received that has been helpful for you?
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is that if you succeed on the first try, it means you aimed too low. In other words, we need to set goals for ourselves that are beyond our reach in order to develop and grow. This advice has taught me to think of failure as a valuable indicator of where the edge of our abilities lies, rather than as something to be ashamed of.
Why is your AASLD membership important to you?
Hepatologists are the nicest people! I love coming to The Liver Meeting® and learning in the company of smart and fun colleagues. I have also greatly valued the opportunity to serve on the Fundamentals of Liver Disease committee, which develops CME-accredited online learning materials for generalists. Finally, AASLD has provided an ideal venue to disseminate some of my research, whether at The Liver Meeting® or in the various AASLD journals.
When you’re not working, what do you like to do?
I live in the Pacific Northwest, so when I’m not at the hospital you can probably find me outside hiking, gardening, boating, snowshoeing, camping, or being silly with my family depending on the season. I am also a serious bread baker – a hobby that long predated the pandemic but has only grown more intense recently. Finally, I have two daughters and volunteer as much as I can with their Girl Scout troops and other activities.
Dr. Beste is based in the US Department of Veterans Affairs in Seattle, Washington.