When he is not working in the clinic with patients teaching or doing research, Andrew Ko, MD, assistant clinical professor in the division of hematology/oncology at the University of California, San Francisco, can be found running.
That is, of course, if he is not playing the piano, going white water rafting or snowboarding, or playing tennis or basketball.
Ko has also run in the Honolulu Marathon and has played the piano since he was 5 years old.
Many of his activities have been placed on the backburner since the arrival of a baby daughter recently. However, he still manages to find the time to run and to play the piano, and he tries to do each several times a week.
Playing the piano is cathartic and functions as a creative and emotional outlet, Ko said in an interview. Practicing, in a way, has helped refine my skills in interacting with patients and conveying and expressing information. The emotional component of medicine represents an art form on its own.
Ko was classically trained on the piano and continued with that training until college. He started off learning classical pieces from composers like Mozart and Beethoven. He later moved on to romantic pieces from composers like Chopin, Brahms and Schubert. He primarily plays recreationally now, though he participated in some competitions when he was younger.
While he was a fellow at Stanford University, he used to rent practice rooms at the campus music center and play. Now, he and his wife have their own piano at home.
Dr. Andrew Ko running in the Honolulu Marathon ...
... rafting on Cache Creek, Calif. ...
... and snowboarding in Vail, Colo.
Source: A Ko.
Ko grew up on the East Coast. He moved to the West Coast starting with his fellowship training and said it has been much easier to participate in outdoor activities year round in the Bay Area. One of the activities he has developed a passion for is white water rafting.
He first went rafting about 10 years ago on the Colorado River and has since gone rafting on several rivers in California. He tries to go a couple of times each season.
Rivers are categorized by level of difficulty, with a class-one river being calm with minimal rough areas and a class-five river being more dangerous with large waves, rocks and sometimes large drops. The highest river class Ko has done is a class four-plus.
Its such a thrill, Ko said. It sounds risky, but when done with others who are experienced, its actually quite safe. Its a great activity to do with family and friends, especially during the warmer months. On a beautiful day, there is really nothing like it.
On any one trip on the river, he often feels a sense of calm and wonder at the surroundings, which is quickly broken up when he reaches the next set of rapids. Then, the adrenaline rushes as hes being drenched and paddling furiously.
Its a good mix of the serene and the jolting thrill, he said.
Ko also runs about 15 miles per week on a regular basis. However, that would not have been enough to prepare him to run the Honolulu Marathon, which he did in December 2004.
He had not planned on running in a marathon. The longest distance he had run prior to that was seven or eight miles, he said.
It started when his wife, also a runner, saw a sign to train for a local marathon to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS. They both decided to join that training program and over a period of six months trained to run long distances.
Building up to 26 miles is a gradual process, he said. You run longer and longer distances each time to build up your stamina.
He finished the Honolulu Marathon with a time of 4 hours and 19 minutes. He did finish before his wife, though he said they were not competing against each other.
It was just such a great feeling to cross the finish line. We were so excited to make it all the way, regardless of our times, he said. by Emily Shafer