Physician Follows Call from His Mother Out of the Forest and into the ICU


If he didn’t respect his mother’s wishes so much, he probably would have ended up organizing tours in a Nepali forest or expeditions in the Himalayan mountains instead of saving lives in an Intensive Care Unit.
Palomar Medical Center Escondido Chief of Medical Staff Elect Kanchan Koirala, M.D., has worked as a critical care physician with Palomar Health since 2015, but he took a long journey to get here, one that has literally brought him across the globe. Born in Nepal, a country that borders China and India and contains the largest mountains in the world, Dr. Koirala said he chose to study medicine because his family didn’t have any doctors and his mother wanted him to.
Raised in the lowlands and foothills near a tropical forest with elephants, lions and other wild animals, Dr. Koirala naturally was interested in following either his mother’s footsteps as a teacher or some of his family members who were involved in the tourism and expedition industry. He’s actually afraid of mountain climbing because he’s known people who’ve lost their eyesight or even lives climbing Mount Everest, but he enjoys the organization of putting travel parties together. People often ask if he’s a Sherpa when they find out he’s from Nepal.
Upon graduation from high school, Dr. Koirala, just Kanchan back then, enrolled in medical school in India and received an MBBS in five years, which is considered a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery in countries that follow the traditions of the United Kingdom. He returned to Nepal to attend Tribhuvan University and specialized in internal medicine. After practicing medicine in his home country, some of his former classmates convinced him to come to the United States, which he did. What followed was years of taking exams, more medical training, residency and a fellowship at the University of Tennessee in Memphis. (Editor’s Note: All the years of schooling might make one question their mother’s advice and become a tour guide instead.)
After working at a hospital in Western Kentucky for six years, Dr. Koirala and his wife decided they wanted to move closer to her sisters who lived in San Diego; so they moved to work at a hospital system in Redding, California. Dr. Koirala met his wife, Regina Poudel, M.D., in medical school in Nepal. They have been married 22 years and have a 16-year-old daughter, Karina. Not coincidently, Dr. Poudel also works for Palomar Health as a hospitalist.
In a twist of irony, the family moved to San Diego in 2015 only to have Dr. Poudel’s sisters move out of San Diego for work. Dr. Koirala says they don’t regret the move as they love it here.
In confirmation that mother knows best, Dr. Koirala has shown to be an outstanding physician. He was the chief fellow at the University of Tennessee, he was physician of the quarter in Redding, in 2016 he was ICU physician of the year as voted by the nurses at PMC Poway, in 2017 he received the chief of staff award as the physician of the year at PMC Escondido and in 2018 the nurses at PMC Escondido named him the ICU physician of the year.
One of the things Dr. Koirala says he loves about being an ICU physician is that he, “has the ability to make an instant impact.”
“To bring them back from near certain death…that’s a high I can’t describe. It really keeps me going.”
He also loves the ability to help his colleagues, and the detective work, the need to determine what’s wrong with a patient and find an intervention.
In his free time, Dr. Koirala likes to travel, study American history and have family and friend gatherings. He enjoys working in his garden and growing fruit trees not native to this area. He also loves to go on medical missions in foreign countries; his last one was in the Philippines.
Photo caption: Dr. Kanchan Koirala is the Palomar Medical Center Escondido Chief of Staff Elect

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