Michael S. Koren grew up behind the Iron Curtain in Minsk, Belarus. After a childhood spent living under communism, he said he found self-determination when the Berlin Wall fell.
He also found education — and his life’s work — in Belarus and in the United States. After graduating from medical school in his native country, he also attended two schools in the United States.
Koren is moving to Colorado and plans to start his own endocrinology practice at Penrose-St. Francis Health Services.
He recently took time to tell CSBJ about himself and his organization.
Organization: Penrose-St. Francis Health Services
Position: Endocrinologist, a physician specializing in diabetes, thyroid and other hormonal and metabolic conditions, like osteoporosis and high cholesterol.
Hometown: Minsk, Belarus.
How long have you lived in Colorado Springs: I’m in the planning stages of moving to Colorado Springs. I lived in the Denver area for almost a year when I first arrived in the United States 10 years ago, and now I am coming back to Colorado to start a family of my own.
Education: Being a foreign medical graduate, I had to meet educational requirements for a physician in two countries, rather than one.
First, I graduated with honors from a six-year medical school in my hometown. There I also completed my initial training in endocrinology.
After coming to the United States, I passed a battery of grueling licensing exams, scoring in the top 10 percent of all exam-takers, including American graduates. I then graduated from three-year internal medicine residency program at Basset Healthcare, a major teaching hospital of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Finally, I spent two years specializing in metabolism, endocrinology and nutrition at the University of Washington in Seattle. It is amazing how 12 years of schooling can be described in just a few lines.
A few words about your organization: Founded by the Sisters of St. Francis and the Sisters of Charity, Penrose-St. Francis is a member of Centura Health, a statewide health care system sponsored jointly by Catholic Health Initiatives and the Adventist Health System.
Centura Health is a nonprofit, faith-based health care system dedicated to improving the lives of the people in our communities.
Recent accomplishments: Earning the love of the woman who completes me. Although in my view, it is not something that is achieved once and for all; it is a life-long process.
Biggest career break: Coming to the United States to be able to learn from — and work with — the wonderful scientists and physicians, the best in their field.
The toughest part of your job: There are many different challenges in my profession. Some of them have to do with our imperfect and incomplete understanding of human body and diseases, leaving us sometimes unable to help to the extent a doctor and a patient would desire.
The other set of challenges has less to do with medicine per se, but with physicians’, at times, limited ability to convince his or her patients to take good care of their body and soul, follow the right diet, exercise regularly and take medicines as prescribed in order to maintain optimal health.
Someone you admire: There are many people who influence us throughout our life. Mikhail Gorbachev earned my admiration and respect for making possible the fall of the Berlin Wall.
After that, it became possible for me to turn the centuries-old concepts of free will, self-determination and personal responsibility into the guiding principles of my life.
About your family: I was born into a family of engineers, the youngest of two children. I am happy to say that my mother, my sister and many other relatives are here in Denver now, so no transatlantic flights are required to see them.
Something else you’d like to accomplish: It is the first time that I have an opportunity to create a physician practice from scratch with invaluable support from Penrose-St. Francis Health Services.
My goal is to make this practice a top-notch place where both patients and their referring physicians receive the help they need.
How your business will change in the next decade: One thing we can be sure about is a change in health care — political, scientific and technological. I am a firm believer in progress as far as science and technology go.
What changes political health care reform will bring remains to be seen.
What book are you currently reading? I have just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” and “The Tipping Point,” and now I’m on the last pages of “Outliers.”
What is the one thing you would change about Colorado Springs? I will be in a better position to answer this question in six to 12 months.