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Issue 11 Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi, Chairman of the Department of Medicine


Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi (center) with his laboratory team. Photo credit: Roger Tully

What was your reason for attending medical school? Why did you want to become a physician?

I was attracted to the field of Medicine because I wanted to help bring about positive impacts on the lives of people, especially concerning the quality of healthcare. My father, a brilliant physician as well as a great role model, was certainly the biggest influence in my decision to pursue medicine. Over the years, I watched my father serving the community through his medical practice, taking care of patients and people suffering from illnesses. I wanted to touch other’s life in the same way he did. I never felt pressured to follow his paths; rather, my parents wanted us to find our own passion. My two siblings found their passion in their own field of choice, and I eventually found medicine as my life’s work after considering a few different paths.

As a physician, you may have gone through various obstacles; can you share some of the most difficult moments during your career?

Attending the medical school and training to become a physician requires commitment and dedication. It’s not different from other professions that demand years of learning. It takes discipline, hard work and perseverance to be the best doctor one can be. During the four years of medical school, I rigorously absorbed and mastered many different skills and knowledge, after which, I was ready to interact with patients. During the medical residency, I realized that finding compassion and ways to truly care for a patient are not something you learn overnight. It is a life-long process; it does not stop after medical school.

“ One of my most important duties is shaping research landscape of the department. The Weill Cornell medicine is a hub for innovative biomedical research and clinical care, and it has a longstanding tradition of excellence. ”

You’ve been appointed as the Chairman of the Weill Cornell Medicine and Physician-in-Chief for New YorkPresbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. What are your responsibilities and principles of leading one of the most comprehensive academic and clinical departments in the country where physicians and research scientists focused on clinical care, research and medical education?

The department of medicine is usually the largest unit in a medical school. Cornell is no exception. Weill Cornell Medicine is comprised of 16 divisions and more than 1,700 faculty members, physicians and research scientists focused on clinical care, research and medical education. Ever since I took the position as a chairman and physician–in-chief, I have directed and supervised clinical activities performed by each division. The Weill Cornell medicine covers wide variety of clinical services, including cardiology, clinical epidemiology, clinical pharmacology, emergency medicine, internal medicine and many more. It is also a home to more than 200 residents and fellows. It is also my responsibility to oversee medical education of the next generation of phisicians and researchers. Speaking of research, one of my most important duties is shaping research landscape of the department. The Weill Cornell medicine is a hub for innovative biomedical research and clinical care, and it has a longstanding tradition of excellence. Though I am kept very busy due to various tasks at hand, it has been more than rewarding to participate in many successes the Weill Cornell medicine yielded over the years.

What are some of the major performances and outcomes you have accomplished under your leadership? What are the long-term goals and visions you hope to see the Weill Cornell Medicine to achieve?

Dr. Augstine Choi and the Department of Medicine Celebrates its Voluntary Physicians at Griffis Faculty Club. From Left Drs. Arthur Radin (Hematology & Medical Oncology), Augustine M.K. Choi (Chairman, Department of Medicine), David S. Blumenthal (Cardiology) and Bruce Gordon (Rogosin Institute)

The Weill Cornell Medicine has three major missions: clinical care, medical education and research. For clinical care, I am proud to say that we are fortunate to host some of the best physicians in the world. What we offer doesn’t stop with innovative and top of the line clinical techniques; it also includes intimate and compassionate care for our patients who need as much emotional support as clinical treatment. In medical education, we continue to train our medical students, residents and fellows to reach their full potential as doctors or researchers. In research, we have enriched our research portfolio and increased grant funding on many different areas including cancer, cardio vascular diseases, pulmonary diseases and herpetology at the Weill Cornell medicine. Personally, as a pulmonologists, I study chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD is third leading cause of death in the United States following cancer and cardio vascular diseases. Despite the common perception, COPD does not develop from smoking in every case, non-smokers also develop COPD. There is no ultimate cure at this point, and current treatments have much room for improvement and continuing optimization. My research is to better understand the mechanism of COPD and to develop molecular targets for both diagnostics and therapeutics.

In the biomedical research, what are some significant changes or trends you have noticed in biomedical industry? What do you forecast the industry will be like in the next five years?

A ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opens the Jill Roberts Institute for Research in Inflammatory Bowel Disease’s permanent laboratories at Weill Cornell Medicine. From left: Dr. Ellen Scherl, Jill Roberts, Dr. Augustine Choi, Jessica Bibliowicz and Dr. David Artis. Photo credit: Studio Brooke

In the foreseeable future, biomedical research will empathize on translational research. The field will explore to find innovative methods of diagnostics and therapeutics. The objective is to utilize available technology to diagnose as early as possible in diseases process. It will allow doctors to intervene and treat patients in the earlier stages of diseases, which can increase effectively the success rate of the treatment. Secondly, National Institute of Health (NIH) funding has been decreasing throughout last decade. From 2003 to 2015, NIH lost 22% of its capacity to fund research due to budget cuts, sequestration, and inflationary losses. It means that biomedical research will not be able to rely solely on federal government funding. Importance of private sector funding will be inevitably amplified as result.

What would be your advice or comments for current medical students as well as those who aspire to become a doctor?

The field of medicine can be a fulfilling career path for anyone because of its versatility. There are three major sectors in medicine: research, medical education, and clinical care. These three pillars of medical science cannot exist without the other. Regardless of one’s choice to focus more on one over the others, the knowledge and experience one gain from any of these medical fields can be enormously helpful as you learn and practice medicine anywhere in the world. There are an infinite number of career paths to choose from; and in that search, the idea is to find and pursue what fits best your personality and aptitude. Medicine is definitely a rewarding and noble career for young people to explore given it has a wide and significant impact on the lives of many people, locally as well as globally. From an orthodontist to a heart surgeon, different professions of medicine all require different sets of skills and talents.

WKMJ has readers from more than 10 countries globally. Please share your words or thoughts with our readers

Dr. Augustine Choi and his wife Dr. Mary E. Choi at W Medical Strategy Group event in Yale Club

We are at the most exciting era of biomedical research. New discoveries are rapidly being made in both diagnostics and therapeutics. New approaches such as stem cell research and Nano-technology are opening new doors righto possibilities of treatments previously thought otherwise. I’m optimistic about the future of medicine as we work together with fellow researchers and physicians around the globe, so we may move forward, expand our horizon and push our limits in caring for our communities.

Augustine M.K. Choi, MD

Chairman, Department of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College Physician-in-Chief, New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center

Dr. Augustine M. K. Choi has been appointed chairman of the Department of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and physician-in-chief at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Dr. Choi is the Parker B. Francis Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi is a clinician-scientist with expertise in the pathology and biology of lung disease. After receiving his medical degree from University of Augustine M.K. Choi, MD Chairman, Department of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College Physician-in-Chief, New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center Louisville, Dr. Choi served as an intern, resident and assistant chief resident in internal medicine at Duke University Medical Center. He then completed a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins University. Prior to joining Harvard and Brigham and Women’s Hospital as chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in 2007, Dr. Choi served on the faculty and medical staff of Johns Hopkins, Yale University and University of Pittsburgh, where he served as chief of pulmonary, allergy and critical care medicine. Dr. Choi has authored more than 235 peer-reviewed manuscripts and serves as the Associate Editor of the American Journal of Respiratory Cellular and Molecular Biology. He is a member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians.

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