Profile: Dr. David Cho, Lower GI Task Force Lead

March 13, 2018

In Members Only, the NWP-physician band that he’s played in since 2005, David Cho, MD, is a singer and keyboardist. But as the physician lead for the Lower GI Task Force, the colorectal surgeon is a rock star.

Dr. Cho directs the care of patients from the point of their diagnosis onward—for all types of colon, rectal, or anal cancer.

Dr. David Cho and his son
Dr. David Cho and son

“My role is to understand the entire spectrum,” he said. That means he tracks the symptom-by-symptom, day-by-day care of each individual patient—from how they react to their diagnosis, to nuances in their anatomy during surgery, to answering questions about bowel function years after treatment.

At the same time, he’s monitoring KPNW-wide policies, interdepartmental systems issues, physician practice standards—even how Health Connect is used to care for patients with colorectal cancer and how that system can continually improve.

“Our team works together to understand the issues, educate each other on how it all fits together, and make meaningful changes,” he said. “My job is to have perspective—to get the specific expert in this area on the job.”

The Uniqueness of Colorectal Surgery

Dr. Cho explained that while there are many vital, indispensable parts to the treatment of colorectal cancer, the single step that absolutely must be in place is surgery; colorectal cancer cannot be cured without it. “I focus on all the aspects of colorectal cancer care and get to learn the ins and outs in intense detail,” he said. “This is one of the things I love the most about being a subspecialist.”

Dr. Cho came to Portland from Arizona, by way of Houston and New York City. He completed his residency at Oregon Health & Science University, followed by a fellowship at the University of Minnesota.

“Within days of being here it was like a key fitting in a lock,” he said. “I was home.” Throughout his seven-year residency, Dr. Cho rotated through the KP system extensively; he trained under some of his current partners.

“I’ve found that there are no better surgeons, physicians, and people to work alongside,” he said.

A Future Focused on Innovation

The Lower GI Task Force has developed a tool to help patients understand, track, and even be proactive in the five-year surveillance after treatment for colorectal cancer, and some of their work in patient education has become a model used by other task forces. Dr. Cho says that in 2018, they are focusing on rectal cancer and looking at new ways to help patients with that disease.

Genetic colorectal cancer syndromes are another area of focus. According to Dr. Cho, the incidence of colorectal cancers in extremely young patients—some in their 30s—has jumped by 70 percent over the last decade or so in the United States, and many of these incidents are due to unrecognized genetic syndromes.

Dr. Cho is grateful for the KP model, which allows him to focus on patient care. “I don’t have the business and insurance pressures of the private practice world, or the non-clinical pressures of academics,” he says.

“I get to focus on doing the right thing and bringing all of the resources we have to offer in the correct way for every patient, every time.”

David Cho plays keyboard and sings for Members Only, a band made up of NWP physicians; photo by Nina Johnson.

David Cho plays keyboard and sings for Members Only, a band made up of NWP physicians; photo by Nina Johnson.

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