Dr. Andrew Park has a one-of-a-kind role at Craig: part SCI physician and part research scientist.
Dr. Park has been a part of the CNS Physician Group and Craig Research Department teams since 2020, including a fellowship year. He knew early on in his education that he wanted to focus on SCI rehabilitation, and he came to Craig already deeply invested in treating SCI patients and furthering their long-term successes.
His interest in SCI research grew alongside his interest in SCI medicine. He originally envisioned his future in a lab conducting clinical studies, but he realized that he enjoyed interacting with people and pivoted from a Ph.D. track to an M.D. to have a career that allowed him to work directly with patients.
“I grew up in a time when exciting new research was coming out that was disproving the idea that neurological injury, specifically SCI, is something that’s not curable and something that we can’t improve,” Dr. Park says. “When I actually got to work with patients with spinal cord injury throughout my training, I also saw how providers get to have these longitudinal relationships with people and their families to continue on with their life. That's what really attracted me to SCI.”
Now, as someone who splits his time between Craig’s dual focuses of neurorehabilitation and research, he’s able to provide important insights into both areas of care, which he describes as often speaking different languages.
“The way we think about problems and the way we think of solutions to those problems in research and clinical work are often very different,” Dr. Park says. “I'm hoping my research will be more translational and be able to bridge that gap where I'm studying things that I can apply to my patients and then questions that come up in the clinic I can apply to research.”
Currently, many of his research topics focus on understanding and preventing secondary complications after injury, specifically cardiovascular disease. SCI patients are at an increased risk for strokes and heart attacks about a decade or two earlier than the general population, which was originally thought to be because patients were developing obesity, diabetes and poor exercise habits as a result of their disability. Yet, even after controlling for those conditions, there appears to be other risk factors at work.
“The scariest part is that patients may be going to their primary care physicians and receiving a general health work up and told they have a clean bill of health, but are actually developing cardiovascular disease that is silent until they have a life-altering stroke or heart attack.”
Much of Dr. Park's research focuses on unraveling the reasons and mechanisms for that difference so there can be a better understanding of these markers that will allow physicians to provide more targeted counsel and guidance to patients. Dr. Park has already started doing this with his IOE patients by discussing cardiovascular risks and providing advice on the best ways to stay healthy.
“I think the most important thing for me is to meet patients where they're at with their goals and make sure I’m giving patients the best opportunity for the most neuro recovery,” Dr. Park says. “I think Craig as a whole speaks to that. It's just built into us that we have a lot of practical programs and practical approaches to care that really focus on that.”
Andrew Park, MD, joined the CNS Physicians Group in 2021 and shares his time serving as one of the SCI physicians and research scientists.
Dr. Park received his medical degree from Rush Medical College in Chicago, IL. He completed his residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado and a fellowship in spinal cord medicine at Craig Hospital.
He is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Spinal Cord Injury Medicine. His clinical and research interests are in early detection and prevention of secondary complications after SCI, spasticity management and translational biomarker sciences.
In his personal time, you'll find Dr. Park with his family enjoying all that Colorado has to offer, including hiking and camping in the summers and skiing in the winters.
Learn more about our CNS Physicians here.