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Roseville, Calif.- David Koh, MD, a Granite Bay resident and longtime physician, has received a prestigious award from Kaiser Permanente for excellence in leadership and management.

Dr. Koh, the chief of radiology at the Kaiser Permanente medical centers in Roseville and Sacramento, was awarded the Cecil Cutting Leadership Award from The Permanente Medical Group. He is one of handful of winners selected among more than 7,000 physicians who work for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California.


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“I was overwhelmed and humbled when I heard about the award,” Dr. Koh said. “Really, it is a group effort, so the real credit goes to my radiologist colleagues and support from radiology chiefs around the region.  Much of the credit also goes to our managers and support staff who are doing great work and are a critical part of our continued success.”

When Dr. Koh was a boy growing up in Korea, he loved to read and write.

Then came the move with his parents to the United States. As his family settled into Monterey to begin a motel business, David found learning an entirely new language was difficult but math and science came easily to him.

That led to medicine, and success with his only employer, Kaiser Permanente. Twenty-two years later, Dr. Koh is chief of Radiology at KP Sacramento, and a respected physician leader who recently was awarded the Cecil Cutting Leadership Award, named after a founding physician of the medical group who emphasized the importance of day-to-day leadership and management.

Early Days, then Medicine

Dr. Koh said his parents didn’t pressure him about school. In fact, he has fond memories of playing the military golf course with a friend all day for about $1.50 during his high school years.

“I joke with my father that if he had pushed me I could have been … a golf pro!” Dr. Koh said, adding, “I’m not very good at golf, really.”

After he came to California, Dr. Koh never left, attending U.C. Davis and then UCLA medical school.

“I always found medicine intriguing. Some people know very early on they want to be a doctor; I wasn’t one of those. But I did apply to medical schools because it was something I might want to do. When I got accepted, I went. Then I never looked back.”

At first, Dr. Koh was taken with general surgery, which he said “seemed exciting.” But he soon gravitated to Radiology.

“I found it interesting trying to solve the story with the images of what you see on the screen. I liked all of the technology.”

During medical school, he also met his wife, Kathy, who was studying to be an ophthalmologist and 1 year behind him.

That chapter of his life helped him write the next.

The Kaiser Permanente Years

Dr. Koh knew he wanted to be at Kaiser Permanente, as did Kathy, who had been in private practice for a couple years. One attraction was KP’s reputation as family-friendly.

“There were lots of options for locations in California, as well as quite a few opportunities in Radiology,” Dr. Koh added. “I felt KP had a great model, where a physician could do what he was good at but leave the business end to somebody else. Now everybody wants to be here.”

Dr. Koh landed at Kaise Permanente in Sacramento, Kathy Koh, MD, at KP Roseville and eventually the Lincoln Medical Offices. He became chief of Radiology in 2004.

“My leadership style evolved over the years,” he said. “At the beginning I was nervous and would micro-manage. But physicians by nature are motivated people, so I learned to delegate and trust in my colleagues to do the right thing. There is a lot of talent in Radiology. Also, I aim to be as flexible as possible; if people are happy in their family lives, they will do better at work. Finally, I try to be the first to embrace new things, to earn trust.”

Dr. Koh brings a focus on high-quality service to his leadership. He says “doctors tend to concentrate on clinical quality but patients tend to notice service, at least as the first impression.” In today’s climate, Dr. Koh feels providing timely service is critical for the success of TPMG and this in turn leads to better overall quality.

That point of view has driven the award-winning Radiology work in the North Valley that includes same-day and even same-hour report turnaround to referring physicians, same-day biopsies with pathology results the next day, walk-in mammography, and expansion of the department’s subspecialists, for example.

Chris Palkowski, MD, physician-in-chief at the Roseville Medical Center, said that these changes led by Dr. Koh have resulted in “spontaneous applause” from admiring clinicians.

“Radiology touches every specialty in medicine,” Dr. Koh said. “We are here to provide quality medical care by helping our clinical colleagues manage patients. What we do has potentially a huge impact on a patient’s life.”

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