A Patient-Centered Approach to Digestive Health


Ask the Doctor

Theodore James, MD, MSc of St. Joseph Gastroenterology

A man wearing glasses standing in a hallway.What drew you to medicine?

It is a cliché, but it is true – I was drawn to a profession that took advantage of my abilities and interest in helping people.

Why did you choose to specialize in gastroenterology?

I really enjoy forming lasting, meaningful relationships with patients. Gastroenterology is a field that mixes procedural care and long-term clinic-based care in a way that encourages building relationships with patients and learning about their lives in order to provide the best care possible.

If a patient is looking for a digestive health specialist, what should they consider?

If a patient is looking for a specialist, they should specifically look for two things:

  1. A provider they feel comfortable talking with. Gastroenterology is an intimate specialty, similar to urology or gynecology. You need to be able to confide in your doctor about things that may be happening with your body that are uncomfortable to talk about. You need to be able to let your guard down in a safe space in order to share details that will help your doctor care for you.
  2. A provider who is willing to bring in other specialists to confer with and who communicates with your primary care provider to create a comprehensive treatment plan.

What are your recommendations to help patients stay well?

To stay well, patients should focus on a few different areas. I recommend:

  1. Being aware of whether your lifestyle or a behavior is contributing to you feeling poorly.
  2. Getting to know your body and self-analyzing notable changes.
  3. Exercising and reflecting on how your body feels when you are regularly active.
  4. Eating mindfully and as cleanly as possible, taking note of foods that make you feel ill. Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” and that is true.

What type of conditions do you treat/procedures do you do?

My office practice is focused on three primary areas: patients with liver disease such as cirrhosis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and liver cancer; patients with inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s or Ulcerative colitis; and patients with diseases of the pancreas and bile ducts such as those with chronic pancreatitis, primary sclerosing cholangitis and pancreatic cancer. Beyond this, I care for patients with acid peptic disorders, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

I also perform:

  • ColonoscopyFor the general population, 45 years of age is the new 50 when it comes to screening. St. Joseph uses GI Genius™, a computer-aided vision technology to assist in the detection of colorectal polyps so that they can be removed.
  • Endoscopic Mucosal Resection – A technique that allows the removal of large, complex growths such as polyps or early cancers without the need for surgery.
  • Upper Endoscopy – a procedure that examines the upper digestive system. This allows for the treatment of stomach ulcers, narrowing of the esophagus and treatment of varices in patients with cirrhosis, to name a few applications.
  • Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) for Barrett’s Esophagus – Barrett’s esophagus is a precancerous condition that is caused by chronic acid reflux. RFA is a method of treating the esophageal tissue to have it revert to non-cancerous tissue.
  • Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography, or ERCP – a procedure that treats stones, tumors or narrowing in the biliary and pancreatic ducts.
  • Video Capsule Endoscopy – for evaluation of lesions in the small bowel that would otherwise be inaccessible.
  • Hemorrhoid Band Ligation – A significantly less painful alternative to surgery for the management of symptomatic hemorrhoids.

If people are experiencing any type of digestive health issue, I encourage them to be seen. Even without symptoms, screenings can help identify pre-cancerous conditions that can be successfully treated before an invasive cancer has developed.

You recently joined the St. Joseph Healthcare team – why?

St. Joseph’s senior leadership team is made up predominantly of clinicians an important mark of connection to patient-focused care. In addition, the team’s approach to daily operations and management is refreshing. The priority is providing high-quality, technologically advanced, compassionate care for all those we serve. I enjoy practicing in Maine and bringing patients services that are not always available in rural communities.

To learn more about Dr. James, please click here. To learn more about St. Joseph Gastroenterology, click here.

(207) 907-1000
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