Antonio Granda, MD, is passionate about saving lives. The gastroenterologist has been a pillar in Middle Tennessee's medical community since 1979, when he joined the staff at Saint Thomas Medical Group. While a lot has changed in Nashville since the Carter administration, Granda's commitment to his patients hasn't waivered.
The son of a respected Cuban pediatrician, Granda arrived in America as a refugee at age 13. As the family worked to rebuild their lives in Wilmington, Del., Granda committed to following in his father's footsteps, delving into medical books at a young age.
"I kept working and received a lot of help from my teachers in high school, college and medical school, who were a great inspiration to me," Granda said of those early years. "I had nothing coming from Cuba, and I had this opportunity to give back to this country and the people who live here."
He went on to receive his undergraduate degree at the University of Delaware in 1968 and his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in 1974. The following year, Granda arrived in Nashville where he completed his internship, residency and gastroenterology fellowship at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Board certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology, Granda now treats the children and grandchildren of many long-time patients, simply called "friends" today.
Road to Gastroenterology
How does a pediatrician's son end up in gastroenterology? "I was a student when fiber optic instruments were developed as part of space exploration," Granda explained. "The endoscope had recently been developed, and it was at the center of this ability to see inside people safely. I was fascinated by that."
Then there was another unexpected catch. "I was left handed so I couldn't be a surgeon," Granda joked. "The scope was my opportunity to do surgery."
His fascination soon deepened into passion as Granda recognized the ability of the field to dramatically change lives. "I enjoyed explaining to patients the results and how I could teach them to regain health from findings I had," Granda said. "I felt that many times doctors gave results but didn't teach the patient what they needed to do to get better. My role is to be a part of the team."
It's a role he takes seriously, although he readily uses humor to drive home a message. In 2015 he helped create a YouTube web series, "Keeping up with the Kolonoscopy," which chronicled a family's experience through the colonoscopy experience. The humorous series was a light-hearted attempt to tackle a very real problem.
"When I first began practicing, 60,000 Americans died of colon cancer every year," Granda said. "After all these years, there are still 40,000 dying because we still can't get people to get colonoscopies. We don't know how to make it happen."
Granda also treats countless patients who've gone doctor-to-doctor and undergone countless tests before receiving a diagnosis of IBS. The problem, he said, was the lack of definitive testing for irritable bowel syndrome, once thought to be a psychological condition. Today, he frequently touts the benefits of a new test that claims IBS is not only a real condition but also one with a naturally known cause.
New data suggests that IBS may be brought on by food poisoning - the first scientifically proven cause of the disease. In some individuals, food poisoning can cause the immune system to produce antibodies directed against the proteins in the bacteria causing food poisoning. In addition to attacking the bacteria, antibodies can also attack a naturally occurring protein located in the lining of the intestinal tract. This antibody attack is part of an autoimmune reaction and may eventually lead to the generation of clinical symptoms associated with IBS.
As a result, the presence of either of these two antibodies in the bloodstream is considered to be a biomarker (anti-CdtB or anti-vinculin) for IBS. The identification of the presence of these antibodies allows for a quick and reliable diagnosis of IBS using IBSchek™, the new blood test based on this scientific discovery.
"This test is important because if it is positive, patients know how they got sick and that it's not anything they're doing," Granda said. "They know it's not in their minds, and it's not their jobs or stress causing it. It's very helpful to know."
IBS in Nashville
A 2016 survey from the Wakefield Group showed that IBS sufferers in Nashville saw an average of two doctors and underwent three or more unnecessary diagnostic tests over five years before finally receiving a diagnosis of IBS.
Almost 90 percent of IBS sufferers in Nashville said IBS has impacted their productivity at work, and 40 percent have not told family members about their condition. A hefty 69 percent of people with IBS felt like family or friends thought they were imagining or exaggerating their symptoms before receiving an IBS diagnosis. Additionally, 86 percent of IBS sufferers in Nashville say their social lives have been negatively impacted by their symptoms, including missing out on activities with friends, traveling or going out to dinner due to concerns or issues with their condition.
"I see patients in their 70s who've been miserable with IBS symptoms their entire lives," Granda said. "They're glad there's an explanation for symptoms and we can deal with the diagnosis. It provides peace of mind for patients who want a better quality of life."