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[May 7, 2008]

Downstate Heart Surgery Chief Dr. Wilson Ko to be Given Ellis Island Award

Wilson Ko, MD, professor and chief of cardiothoracic surgery at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, will be presented the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor during a ceremony on the island Saturday, May 10, 2008. The award, presented by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO), is given to prominent American citizens of diverse origins for their outstanding contributions to their communities, the nation, and the world.
Dr. Ko, a native of Hong Kong, emigrated to San Francisco at the age of 12 and became an American citizen six years later.
“I believe this award highlights the opportunities that all Americans have at their disposal,” said Dr. Ko.  “America is great because we are successful and have gained world respect over the years by doing great things for others.  The honor is given for those who sacrificed everything to bring their children to America for a better future and I think a better future for the world.”
A preeminent surgeon who graduated valedictorian from Chicago Medical School, Dr. Ko spent 20 years on the staff of Cornell Medical Center, where he was promoted from assistant to associate professor, before joining SUNY Downstate in 2006.

At Downstate, Dr. Kois forming a new multidisciplinary team to become a center of excellence.  He is currently involved in new program development; training and education of cardiothoracic surgery residents, general surgery residents, and medical students; and the admissions committee of Downstate’s College of Medicine.

Dr. Ko is active in new York’s large Chinese American Community. He is the president of the Chinese American Medical Society, having spent eight years on the board of directors, where he was also treasurer and vice-president.

Through this thousand member-organization, Dr. Ko has contributed to many community services such as health education seminars, and fairs.  The society initiated “healthy heart” food education program for local restaurants, annual free flu vaccination, and financially supported many community based research programs related to hepatitis, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, HIV and others. 

Dr. Ko presides over 10 scholarships and research grants for Chinese-American medical students annually.  He currently serves on the board of directors for the American Cancer Society—East Asian Unit in Flushing, Queens.  The Unit serves as a community resource for education, healthcare referral, counseling, and cancer support groups.  He is currently the president of the China Aids Fund, which has had two successful fund raising galas in New York. 

Dr. Ko recently helped Downstate’s Chinese-American medical students to organize the first free flu vaccine program in Brooklyn’s Chinatown.  As president of Chinese American Medical Society at Downstate, Dr. Ko works closely with the Charles B. Wang Chinatown Health Clinic and the Chinese American Independent Physician Association to launch groundbreaking community-based research on ethnic differences in medical illnesses among Chinese-Americans. 

Past Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipients include six presidents of the United States, Nobel Prize winners, athletes, leaders of industry, artists, and others whose work has made a lasting impact on humanity.