Four questions with Jeffrey Koh, M.D. | OHSU Foundation

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As part of our Everyday Impact series, we’ll highlight the creativity, passion and ingenuity that donors bring to their personal fundraising, and the many different stories behind their gifts.  

As a pediatric anesthesiologist at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, Jeffrey Koh, M.D., takes pride in finding effective perioperative and pain management care plans for kids with complex care needs. As an amateur athlete, he thrives on competing in the grueling long-distance Ironman Triathlon. For the last 17 years, Koh’s been putting his Ironman endurance to work for OHSU, raising more than $30,000.

We asked Koh a few questions about his inspiration and impact, both at Doernbecher and on the trail.  

When did it first click that you could combine your passion for Ironman competitions with raising money? 

My first Ironman, I stumbled on the organization’s foundation, which facilitates athletes raising money for local charities. It made sense [to participate] when I saw that I could take the opportunity to do something that people found fascinating, which would spur interest in contributing, in parallel with wanting to try to increase the resources available to the pediatric pain management program. That was probably 17 years ago.  

For a couple of years, I also raised money for the Child Life program at Doernbecher, as well as for the pediatric dental program at Doernbecher. I have a soft place for the smaller programs that have more difficulty raising awareness about their needs.   

When you think about pediatric anesthesiology and pain relief, what are the gaps that philanthropy can fill? 

Pediatric pain management doesn’t have a deep revenue stream, so it doesn’t leave much wiggle room for things like education of new faculty, new staff, research assistance and novel programs that we have been part of developing and which need just a bit of support to get going or maintain. The clinical piece we can make work, but it’s all the other missions that we try to accomplish that need or benefit from the philanthropic support. 

What makes your department stand out? What are you proud of? 

I am very proud of the fact that we developed a multidisciplinary pediatric pain management program. It includes psychology, physical therapy, nursing and physicians, all of whom have a special interest in, expertise, experience and training in pediatric pain management. I think we’ve developed a unique combination of experience and interest that is hard to duplicate. 

We have a very well-structured service and clinic that can help transition families to outpatient care and that stays involved to help patients recover with as little pain as possible and continue to manage any chronic pain that may be involved. 

We’ve been able to sustain this or maintain this for now twenty-three years, which even for the biggest programs in the country is challenging.   

What is next on your philanthropic journey?  

I don’t think I’m going to continue the Ironman. I’ll dabble in the coming years because I’ve done it long enough. Trail racing is my passion. There’s a possibility of utilizing various platforms to raise money using those races as a motivator.  

Honestly, my wife and I are thinking as we ramp into retirement, “How can we continue to contribute whether personally or by fundraising?” I’d like to stay involved, whether it’s education, whether it’s research, whether it’s patient care. Like I said, I have a soft place in my heart for those smaller programs where raising a few thousand dollars makes a difference on a year-to-year basis.  I’m keeping an open mind and I would like to keep some form of philanthropy as a part of my journey going forward. 

Make an impact for something you’re passionate about.