Get to know Dr. Yoshio Otaki

Side-by-side photos of someone running a race and reaching for high fives. The other photo is a headshot of the same person in a suit and tie.

OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and the OHSU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery are excited to welcome Dr. Yoshio “Yoshi” Otaki to our Pediatric and Congenital Cardiac Surgery team. Dr. Otaki arrived last month and joined Dr. Ashok Muralidaran, interim head of Pediatric and Congenital Cardiothoracic Surgery, and Dr. Irving Shen. We sat down with Dr. Otaki to learn more about his background, goals and hobbies.

Can you share a bit about your career path and how it led you to your field?

I graduated from Kobe University in Japan in 1993. After five years of training in cardiothoracic surgery, I started working on congenital heart defects (CHD). I was also involved in research work regarding surgery for end stage heart failure. Because of my interests in developing total artificial heart or ventricular assist devices, I moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in 2002 to work in biomedical engineering research at the Cleveland Clinic. I spent five years there before returning to the clinical side of things at the Cleveland Clinic, followed by Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland. Then in 2010 I moved to North Carolina to work in pediatric heart surgery at Wake Forest University.

What’s your favorite part about working in pediatric and congenital cardiac surgery?

Badge with a Yoshi character badge pull. Badge has photo and reads "Yoshio Otaki, M.D., Ph.D. Associate Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics. Pediatric & Congenital Cardiac Surgery"Pediatric heart surgery is very dramatic. Very sick babies can get much healthier very quickly – sometimes as soon as the day after a big surgery. I can’t remember the names of all of the patients I have operated on before, but it makes me happy when kids and families see me and say, “Yoshi!” many years after surgery. That’s why I have Yoshi on my badge pull every day!

What are some of your goals for the Pediatric and Congenital Cardiac Surgery team at OHSU Doernbecher?

Nowadays heart surgery is becoming more complex, and teamwork is more important than ever. This includes anesthesia, the OR team, perfusion, intensive care and cardiology. I am very happy to become a part of the great team at OHSU.

What do you like to do for fun or as a hobby outside of work?

For mental relaxation, I typically go running in nature. While running, I can make my brain empty. I also run marathons and ultramarathons. My goal was finish marathons in all 50 states, but this was tough because it’s challenging to have weekends off so often. I wound up running two marathons back to back (on Saturday and Sunday) in different states more than 10 times. I met my goal of running marathons in all 50 states in 2015, and now I’ve moved on to ultramarathons! So far, I have run 96 marathons and 41 ultramarathons, including 15 100-mile races. This year, I’m going to run Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in California, which is kind of like the Olympic games of our running world.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I don’t remember exactly when, but as far back as elementary school I started to think I wanted to be a physician.