November 09, 2017
Today the spotlight is on LBJ General Hospital and Dr. Tien Ko. Dr. Ko is the Jack H. Mayfield, M.D. Distinguished Professor in Surgery and chief of surgery at LBJ. He was recently named the hospital’s chief of staff and the medical school’s associate dean for Harris Health Programs.
Staffed by physician faculty and residents from McGovern Medical School and operated by Harris Health, LBJ Hospital is, along with Memorial Hermann TMC, one of our two primary teaching hospitals. The hospital opened in 1989 as a replacement for Jefferson Davis Hospital and serves the largest population base of any hospital in Houston. LBJ Hospital is a 207-licensed-bed acute care hospital, providing a wide range of services. The hospital has the state’s busiest Level III trauma center, over 70,000 ER visits per year, and a regional level III neonatal intensive care unit.
Dr. Ko grew up in California. He received his medical degree at the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine and completed his residency in general surgery at Loyola University Medical Center. He went on to complete a research fellowship at UTMB in Galveston and a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Growth and Development at the University of California San Francisco. He joined the medical school faculty in 2007 and in 2008 completed a program for chiefs of clinical services through the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard’s School of Public Health.
A few questions we posed to Dr. Ko:
What led you to become a physician and how did you come to LBJ?
I enjoyed science in school and wanted to use science to help people on a daily basis. I’m the first doctor in my family. I was on faculty at UTMB until 2007 and came to LBJ when Dr. David Mercer, the previous chief of surgery at LBJ, moved to Memorial Hermann-TMC. I learned that LBJ Hospital is a major teaching hospital providing care for the needy, very much like UTMB, which is an important asset to the community, providing care to those with little resources. I like that I was able to continue that mission at LBJGH.
What are you looking forward to accomplishing as chief of staff?
I’m looking forward to making a difference by focusing on high quality care, which requires UTHealth to have closer partnership with Harris Health leadership and staff. Over the last 10 years I’ve developed excellent working relationship with Harris Health, and I hope to use that connection in my new role. LBJ hospital is very important to our community by providing services that cannot be replaced by anyone else. It is also a critical hospital for the education mission of UTHealth. We should all be proud of the wonderful work our faculty, staff, and trainees are doing at LBJ Hospital.
How does Harris Health and the school work together?
The way we worked together during Hurricane Harvey was a great example. The area around LBJ Hospital was flooded, and there was no access to the hospital. We anticipated this and developed a plan to have ride out teams that consisted of faculty, residents, and Harris Health staff. During Harvey, many staff and trainees were at LBJ for five days or longer and worked tirelessly in providing wonderful care. This experience brought UTH and LBJ staff closer together and helps emphasize that working together we can accomplish a lot even during a crisis.
Who are your mentors?
Most my mentors are surgeons, and they are dedicated individuals who are perfectionist and expect the best of themselves and their trainees. They are academic surgeons who performed research to try to increase our understanding of diseases with the hope of leading to better treatments. They were not satisfied with status quo but were visionaries. Many surgeons don’t go into administration because unlike surgery, which can make immediate differences in people’s lives, administrative work takes time to affect change. It requires collaboration and patience to achieve results. While the processes in surgery and administration are different, both offer opportunities to affect changes in people’s lives.
Please join me in thanking Dr. Ko for taking on this important role. Thanks for the wisdom, experience, and energy you bring to your new role.
Also, join me in thanking the dedicated faculty, residents, students, and staff who work at LBJ. LBJ is an invaluable asset for our community and for our school. We are fortunate to have wonderful faculty and staff who are dedicated to the mission of LBJ — to providing outstanding care to our patients and an outstanding learning environment for students and residents.