George So, MD, a radiologist at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, didn't get his start in medicine the way you'd expect. After moving to the United States from Hong Kong at the age of 18, he pursued dual degrees in electrical engineering and computer engineering and spent many years developing the technology behind the modern Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine. He participated in a joint project with UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley, where he helped design one of the early MRI machines, which was large enough to fit a rat or a piece of fruit. "One of my favorite images was of a kiwi," So recalls. "Outside, it has hairy skin . . . but inside, it has really pretty seeds."
Dr. So's fascination with imaging technology soon led him to medicine, where he focused primarily on neuroradiology and interventional radiology- minimally invasive procedures that use imaging technology to target specific areas of the body. "Let's say a patient has a stroke," he explains. "Now we can remove blood clots from the arteries supplying the brain; as a result, the patient can be left with minimal residual neurological deficit. It's a huge thing; you can change a patient's life significantly."
One of his best memories as a doctor was watching a 77-year-old woman instantaneously recover mobility in the side of her body that had been paralyzed by a stroke. "The nurses kept shouting, 'She's crossing her legs! She's crossing her legs!' It was very gratifying," So says. "You can see the impact you make right in front of your eyes."
In addition to assisting with strokes, interventional techniques have revolutionized the fields of oncology, vascular disease and neurology, allowing doctors access to tumors and blood vessel abnormalities without the traditional invasive open procedures.
Dr. So is now chief of the radiology department at Torrance Memorial, a hospital he considers to be at the forefront of radiology and interventional radiology. "This field is advancing so fast. If you don't keep up, you'll be left behind," he says. As a result, So is passionate about the importance of continuing education. He is constantly reading medical journals to keep ahead of advancements in medical imaging and interventions, and he feels lucky to have spent more than 10 years of his life as part of a team of top-notch radiologists, technologists, nurses and administrators who share his desire to make patient care a priority.
"Torrance Memorial has a very progressive radiology department. The hospital is very supportive of getting us the best machines. We have state-of-the-art equipment to offer patients."
Dr. So is a happily married father of two. His wife, Jackelyn, is a radiology professor at UCLA, and while it's not always easy to juggle their hectic schedules, being married to a fellow radiologist has its perks.
"When we have difficult cases, we actually consult each other," So says with a laugh. "It's like a free consultation!"
They live in Manhattan Beach, conveniently close to Torrance Memorial, and they have no plans to move any time soon. "The South Bay has a lot to offer," So says, adding that he particularly loves the beach and the nice climate in the area.
One of his favorite activities is taking his children for a stroll along the beach and visiting the Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium at the end of the pier. He also feels it's important to educate children about the medical field and often gives talks to local high school students who visit Torrance Memorial Medical Center on Career Day.
With his own kids, however, he doesn't try to push them to follow in his footsteps. "I'm just hoping that I can turn them into good people, good citizens," he explains. "Whatever they do, they can't be mediocre; they have to enjoy it and be good at it."