Dr. Jenny Ko is a medical oncologist and Director of the Clinical Trials Unit at BC Cancer – Abbotsford. Dr. Ko’s cutting-edge and innovative work in cancer research earned her a Health Professional-Investigator Award from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research in 2018 as well as a donation from Crystal Gala Foundation in 2020-2021. She is the principal investigator for a medical education research project involving ACP education in residents that has been awarded a major grant. Dr. Ko and her team are working on ways to treat ovarian cancer that has become resistant to first-line chemotherapy.
Dr. Ko is originally from Richmond, British Columbia and has completed most of her education at the University of British Columbia, where she studied her undergrad, medical degree and completed her residency in internal medicine. She feels fortunate to have done much of her schooling and work within the province and within BC Cancer, where she encountered many influential people who provided mentorship.
Q: How did you become interested in this field?
A: I did rotation as a medical student where I happened to work with an Oncologist. I really enjoyed the work because of the special relationship with the patients who are going through very difficult journeys. The relationship with the patients and the ability to assist them along a challenging journey really inspired me and reminded me of the reason I went into medicine.
Q: What inspires your work?
A: My patients are the primary force behind the work that I do. I am really grateful for their input and I learn so much from them and the need for better care, communication, and treatment options. I also feel that observing what goes on in the clinic inspires the research and quality improvement work that I do. Research is the creative side of medicine where I can let loose and let innovative ideas come to me and work with a team to make that dream a reality. I definitely think that research is the fun side of medicine.
Q: What are your goals for your career?
A: I want to ensure that across all regions and different patient groups, we provide genuine, relationship-based, and quality care. I want to retire feeling that I stayed focused on my patients and their interests to the last day of my career, and I did everything in my power to focus on the patients’ needs, whether that’s in a clinical setting or in research.
Q: What would be the advice you would give to someone starting out in the same field?
A: In the beginning, I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go or what I wanted to study. I knew that I was very interested in the innovative aspects of medicine and research quality improvement, but I wasn’t sure how I should focus my career and felt that I was trying out everything, so my advice would be to not be afraid to explore and see what fits. Always have an open mind because you never know what opportunities will come around and allow you to learn and expand your horizon. Sometimes letting things happen organically is best.
Q: What do you think is your greatest accomplishment?
A: I am really proud of being able to do research and quality improvement work that is related to our region. BC Cancer Abbotsford is still relatively new and being one of the staff to establish research, innovation, and collaboration traditions and efforts and set that example is one of my accomplishments that I am very proud of.
Q: Do you have a favourite aspect of your job?
A: When patients walk out of the clinic and feel reassured about the plan that we have made together, I feel a huge sense of satisfaction and reminded of why I do this job. I also have administrative days on Fridays, which I reserve for meetings and research. When I look back on the day and see the visible, collective progress and plans or next steps added to projects, I also find that satisfying.
Q: What’s your favourite restaurant in Vancouver?
A: There’s a few! I love sushi, so we recently went to a place called Sushi Jin, a small restaurant downtown and that has omakase, which is Japanese food served in multiple courses, and it was amazing.
Q: Where’s the first place you want to travel once Covid-19 is over?
A: Somewhere warm like Hawaii!
Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
A: I love doing things to ensure that I have a good work-life balance, like going to the gym and going for bike rides. My husband and I also really like skiing and hiking, so trying to stay active. I want to learn and master Spanish one day and I try and do a little bit every day on an app. Also spending time with family and loved ones.