Featured Alumni: Cliff Cho, MD

Cliff Cho, MD
Former Resident, Class of 2004
Chief, Division of Hepatopancreatobiliary and Advanced Gastrointestinal Surgery, University of Michigan

Reflecting on your time here, what do you believe helped you prepare for the surgical career you have now?

I think the shortest but most accurate way for me to answer that question is to say that I get through all of my working days trying to mimic the people who taught me at Wisconsin: trying to treat people with genuine respect like Layton Rikkers; trying to think scientifically like Stuart Knechtle; trying to make good decisions like Sharon Weber; trying to stay calm like Dave Mahvi; trying to give advice like Herb Chen; trying to enjoy work like Jim Maloney; trying to laugh at myself like Greg Kennedy; trying to put my patients first like Dani Relish; and trying to say something funny like Chuck Heise. The good or wise decisions I end up making have all been thanks to those people; the many ways in which I fall short of those people have all been thanks to me.

What is a fond or funny memory you have that brings a smile to your face when you think about your time here?

I was an intern getting called into the Emergency Department at some otherworldly hour of the night, maybe 3 in the morning or so. The world feels like a very different place at 3 in the morning and the dominant emotion when you’re getting up to head to the OR at that time is loneliness. I remember starting to get that feeling as I was walking toward the ER in the dark – and then I remember that feeling going away instantaneously when I walked into the brightly lit ER and saw good old PGY3 Jim Maloney, happily writing two H&Ps while drinking coffee and in good naturedly joking with the nurses. I tell house staff that the absolute best part of residency is that you get to do it with all your friends.

Do you stay in touch with any of your UW Department of Surgery resident/fellows with whom you trained

No, not really… No, I’m just kidding. Yes, I do, as often as I can. One of the many good things about staying in academics is getting to see former resident mates (the ones who stayed in academia, anyway) at meetings all the time. It’s so much fun because it never fails – get two former UW residents together at any moment and within 80 seconds someone is telling a story about Bruce Harms. It may be the same story you’ve heard or told a hundred times, but it gets more and more enjoyable every year.