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Last modified: Friday, March 20, 2009

Douglas K. Rex

Distinguished Professor

Chancellor's Professor of Medicine
Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
School of Medicine
University Graduate School
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Appointed to IU faculty, 1985
B.A., Harvard University, 1976
M.D., Indiana University School of Medicine, 1980

As one of the top three colonoscopy experts in the world, Professor Douglas Rex has literally saved thousands of lives.

In 1987, Rex organized the first screening colonoscopy trial performed in the United States, in which nearly 800 physicians, dentists , and their spouses came to the Indiana University Hospital to undergo colonoscopy. This trial, along with the dozens of other investigations Rex has produced over the past two decades, has transformed colonoscopy from an unusual and potentially dangerous procedure to the most effective screening test against any form of cancer and the most widely performed medical procedure in the United States.

Douglas K. Rex

Douglas K. Rex

Print-Quality Photo

Working with the American College of Gastroenterology (which he served as president in 2004), Rex played a pivotal role in the 2001 federal legislation establishing Medicare reimbursement for screening colonoscopies for Medicare recipients, thus opening the door for millions of people to benefit from the procedure.

Rex has continued to improve the safety and quality of colonoscopy through his research. He played a major role in developing the clinical guidelines for colonoscopy, which outline the standards of care to be used by physicians. He has also been extremely influential in discovering new sedation techniques to help make endoscopic procedures more comfortable for patients.

Over the course of several years, Rex has been included multiple times in databases dedicated to helping patients find the nation's top specialists. These include Best Doctors in America, Best of U.S., America's Top Doctors, and America's Top Gastroenterologists. He has also won numerous awards, including the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Master Endoscopist Award, the Tony and Mary Hulman Health Achievement Award, the Otis Bowen Distinguished Leadership Award, and the Excellence in Clinical Research and William D. Carey Awards presented by the American College of Gastroenterology Board of Governors. He was also named Outstanding Teacher four years in a row for his instruction of Introduction to Medicine.

Rex has written 130 original research papers,150 review articles, 25 editorials, 29 guideline papers, and 46 book chapters. He has edited three text books, including Colonoscopy: Principles and Practice, which received the British Medical Association Book Award.

His dedication to the gastroenterology community is evident through his service to many committees and task forces including the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer, which he served as chair from 2001-2005. He also developed an annual gastroenterology update course that is now given to more than 200 local physicians each year.

Considering his rigorous research career, Rex remains remarkably active in his clinical practice. He has served as director of the endoscopy unit at the Indiana University Hospital since 1994, where he has performed over 55,000 endoscopic procedures. Patients who have had repeated incomplete colonoscopies or difficult-to-treat polyps travel from all over the United States to seek his treatment. "Many of his research ideas arise from observations he has made in the course of caring for patients," says Linda Rabeneck, professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. "Truly this is the mark of a master clinical scientist. To derive ideas from patient care, devise hypotheses and conduct research to evaluate them, and then publish results that have a major impact nationally and internationally—how could any physician do better than that?"

Rex is, understandably, in high demand all over the world. Twenty-nine other institutions have granted him visiting professorships, and he has given 16 named lectures and more than 1,100 continuing medical education presentations to state, national, and international meetings. But in spite of his international prestige, Rex has remained faithful to the state where he was born and raised: "Despite many lucrative recruitment offers from all over the world," wrote three of his colleagues from the School of Medicine, "he remains a loyal servant to the university and a proud Hoosier."