VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT – DR. JAI CHO
When Jai Cho, M.D., retired in 2018 it wasn’t easy. But she knew it was the right thing. During her three-decade career as a neurologist she loved what she did. But the time came to make more room for family, friends and travel. And some work.
That’s where MAVEN Project came in.
While Dr. Cho wanted to have more flexibility in her time, she didn’t want to leave medicine altogether. She started volunteering with MAVEN Project in 2019 and hasn’t looked back!
“E-consults on patient cases are my favorite part of volunteering with MAVEN Project,” Dr. Cho noted. “I’m able to give the provider concrete tips on how to proceed and how to approach similar cases in the future. That way, they have a better understanding of what to look for, what to ask the patient and how to find answers on their own, when they need to.”
She loves that she can do this work from her home on her own time, giving her the flexibility she sought in retirement.
Dr. Cho’s special interest in headache management has also led to her presenting a number of continuing medical education (CME) sessions. Because headaches are a common complaint among patients, her guidance on the subject is frequently requested by MAVEN Project partner clinics.
She has also been able to mentor students from Florida International University’s Minority Association of Pre-med Students through an ongoing partnership with MAVEN Project. In her second year, she’s paired with three students who she’ll help guide through medical school applications and more.
“It’s so rewarding to work with young people who are so energetic and ambitious,” Dr. Cho noted. “It’s not just a growth opportunity for them, but for me, as well.”
Growing up in rural South Korea, Dr. Cho hadn’t considered what she might pursue as a profession. Until she read a news article about Dr. Albert Schweitzer working in Africa.
“I knew then that was how I wanted to help people,” she shared. “When I came to the U.S. at age fourteen, it took a lot of hard work to adjust and learn the language, but years of perseverance paid off and I achieved my dream.”
Dr. Cho retired from the Santa Clara Kaiser Medical Center, where she worked in general neurology and in vascular neurology. Beyond her practice, she enjoyed teaching residents both in the outpatient clinic settings as well as in the inpatient neurology consult service. She was also the clinical lead for the Northern California Kaiser Permanente Clinical Practice Guidelines for Stroke and was actively involved in developing Kaiser Permanente’s telestroke program that provided emergent evaluation of acute stroke patients for possible treatment with thrombolytics and thrombectomies.
In her retirement, MAVEN Project isn’t her only way of giving back. Dr. Cho is also volunteering with a free clinic in her area; has assisted with vaccine clinics for her local school district; and mentors an Afghan refugee who wants to pursue a career in medicine.
Her passion for helping people is only surpassed by her love of learning. After a recent journey to Antarctica, South Georgia Island and Falkland Islands, Dr. Cho dug into the geography of the region, the study of ice and whatever else she could learn about the area. She also enjoys birdwatching in her free time.
Today Dr. Cho resides in northern California with her husband of 40 years. She has two grown children.