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April 2009 Issue

UC physician Richard Rood, MD, says he is living proof that it’s possible to live a fulfilling life after being diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease and other gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. His own illness led to his interest in becoming a GI physician.
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Doctor's Own Health Ailment Spurs Quest to Treat Others Facing Similar Challenges of Living With GI Diseases

By Katie Pence
Published April 2009

Richard Rood, MD, says he was never involved in Boy Scouts as a youngster and even thought twice before going to the movies on a Saturday night—all because of a disease that left him running for the bathroom more often than not.

“As an ulcerative colitis patient, I still look for the location of restrooms every time I enter a building and avoid venues where the facilities are inadequate or absent,” says the UC physician and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) expert.

“Living with ulcerative colitis is like taking a ride on a roller coaster in the dark—never knowing what is around the next corner or when the disease will flare.”

Rood, 52, has been living with ulcerative colitis, a form of IBD, since the age of 10. Inflammatory bowel disease occurs when the immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract.

Ulcerative colitis—one of the two most common types of IBD—includes characteristic ulcers, or open sores, in the colon or rectum.

Crohn’s disease, another type of IBD, inflames all layers of the intestinal wall, in any area ranging from the mouth to the anus. There is no cure for these diseases, and they are precursors to colon and rectal cancer.

Rood says he has faced much embarrassment and ridicule because of the disease which causes abdominal pain, bloody stool and unpredictable, relentless diarrhea.

“I was once assaulted in the restroom of a movie theater as a teen during one of my flare-ups,” he says. “I remember having extreme diarrhea during school with no privacy—no doors on the stalls in the restroom. In our society, bowel diseases, especially those that include symptoms of diarrhea and rectal bleeding, are not generally discussed in social circles or among peers.

“It always amazes me that when I acknowledge I have ulcerative colitis, I find out that the person I am talking to either has the disease or knows of someone who has the disease.”

Rood, knowing how difficult life can be living with IBD, decided to go to medical school to become a gastroenterologist and help others with the same condition.

“I wanted to give back and take care of people like me,” he says. Rood received his medical degree from Wright State University in 1982, did his residency training at Ohio State University and completed several gastroenterology fellowship programs at Tufts University, New England Medical Center, in Boston.

He served in his first faculty role at the Meyerhoff Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

After several years, Rood went into private practice in Cleveland. He recently decided to come back to the world of academia at UC in order to teach future doctors about IBD and to do research that could help in the discovery of treatments for the disease.

“When our last child left the house, I felt like it was a good time to make the transition,” says the associate professor of medicine. “I felt it was important to serve in an academic arena not only to teach but also to help find cures for people with IBD.

“Research is the only way to do it,” he says.

Rood said that he is working with colleagues in the division of digestive diseases in the College of Medicine and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to create a comprehensive treatment network, helping patients of all ages receive optimal care and manage their disease on their own.

“We want to create a Center of Excellence for Inflammatory Bowel Disease,” he says. “This way, infants, teens and adults will continue to get the consistent care they need throughout their lives.

“I decided to become a professor specializing in the treatment of persons with these devastating diseases to help people seek treatment and learn about their illnesses in addition to helping them realize there is nothing to be ashamed of—especially in younger groups.

“IBD is a very serious disease that affects more than 1 million people in this country alone and could have tragic outcomes,” he continues. “However, with proper and prompt diagnosis and treatment, patients can live a fulfilling life. I’m living proof of that.”

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