Complex cases don’t deter Stephanie Cho, MD, MS, a psychosomatic medicine fellow at Keck School of Medicine of USC. In fact, in her work at both Keck Hospital of USC and Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center, she prefers the challenges of caring for patients with varying complexities. Her colleagues say despite the most difficult of cases, Cho exemplifies empathetic and compassionate care to every patient she treats.

Cho recently was awarded one of the USC Choi Family Awards for Excellence in Patient-Centered Care, which recognize nurses, fellows, physicians, non-clinical staff and departments for demonstrating patient-centered care, compassion and excellence.

“Our patients are truly suffering from pain, anxiety or complex illnesses so I keep that at the forefront when I’m delivering care and try to focus on what will help them maintain their dignity and the best quality of life,” Cho explained.

Though she had a passion for medicine in general while earning a doctor of medicine degree from Loma Linda University, it was her determination to improve the quality of life for psychiatry patients that led her into the fellowship in psychosomatic medicine. Cho practices supportive psychotherapy — a treatment approach that encourages patients to talk about their feelings and helps them tell their story about the current crises they are experiencing. The treatment also focuses on learning about and highlighting the patient’s strengths and how they have handled past crises to help them maintain self-esteem during the current crisis.

Jonathan S.Y. Wong, PsyD, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and the behavioral sciences (practitioner) at the Keck School, has been Cho’s psychotherapy supervisor for the past year. He said she has an unwavering commitment to compassionate patient care.

“Dr. Cho strives to blend her medical knowledge with her growing psychotherapy skills to provide patients with a unique perspective and experience that can lead to lasting change and new insight,” Wong explained.

Cho said she is extremely appreciative of receiving the Choi Award.

“I was so touched to get this recognition,” she said. “A lot of times physicians are awarded for their research, so it’s really nice to be recognized for doing what’s best for patients.”

Cho is close to completing her one-year fellowship and has been hired to work in psychiatric consulting at the Keck School.

— L. Alexis Young