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A Conversation with Kara Bischoff | See previous interviews

Kara Bischoff
Assistant Clinical Professor

Kara Bischoff

You seem always to be happy and energetic! What is your secret?

I am not sure I'm always happy, but I do enjoy my work. I think that the things that make me happy are the people that I get to work with, including the patients that we see here. I think it's amazing that I have a job where I come in contact with so many diverse people at such important times in their lives. Also my colleagues, who I really enjoy, learn from, and am inspired by. I truly enjoy the people who I get to be around—they bolster me. I also try to set some limits on my work and get outside of the hospital to Golden Gate Park, the beach, and the water when I can. Also being with my daughter who just turned 16 months and has been ordering me around, saying, "Mo! Mo!" (which means "more").

Where were you born and raised? Would you tell me a bit about your family?

I was born at home in Sausalito on a futon. I was born really quickly and the midwife hadn't arrived yet. My dad was going to catch me but he passed out and my 18-month-old brother was running around. I apparently came out with the cord wrapped around my neck and I was purple by the time the midwife arrived. Later, we moved to Muir Beach to a home my dad, who was an architect and artist, designed and built. I literally got to hike in any direction from my doorstep from the time I was little. My brother now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is a physicist and works out of a telescope at the South Pole. My mom moved to Orcas Island, off the coast of Seattle, because she found it too congested in Muir Beach. My dad still lives in Marin.                   

Can you share any memories about growing up that illustrate the kind of kid you were?

Apparently when I was little I was headstrong and had my own ideas about things. I always wanted to do things myself. There are pictures of me as a 2-year old pushing my 4-year-old brother around in a stroller while he sipped his milk. My mom says I was quite energetic.

You cycle to work, yes? How long is your commute and is that a leveler at the beginning and end of a day? Have you ever thought about racing competitively?

I love my bike commute. It is super easy since I live in the Sunset—it’s only ten minutes—but longer when I ride to Mission Bay for clinic. I go straight through the park the whole way. What I enjoyed even more was my bike commute to the VA during residency. I've never thought about racing—cycling is just something that I do for fun. We have a bike trailer for the little one and she enjoys it, but we haven't gone for a really long ride with her yet.

Is there something your mom said or did, that you have found to be truer than you would have believed?

My mom and dad were pretty lenient with us when we were kids. When I was about 4-years old my dad (an old hippie) said that, "Kids know about everything by the age of 4—we should be learning from them." My parents were pretty gentle with me and now my mom also lets my daughter do just about anything she wants; open whatever cupboards she wants, eat whatever she wants. I am finding that I am also a huge pushover when it comes to being a parent, and I think I will be reaping the punishment! I think that I may have inherited that lack of backbone. I am also, like my mom, finding myself to be a goofy parent, saying things out loud like, "Moon!" even when my daughter isn't with me.

Is a certain amount of pop culture welcome in your home? Of what sort and when?

My husband is a huge Warriors fan and does a Warriors podcast, so we keep up with the games and are all about TV when the Warriors are playing. My daughter has a favorite book of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird from the 80s. She is a Larry Bird fan.

Baby Kara

Has any one bit of advice, given the work you do in Palliative Care, come to be something that you've found meaningful to share?

A couple of questions that I've found to be powerful are, "What are you hoping for?" and "What feels most important to you right now?" They are incredibly simple questions but have been really meaningful to use with patients, and even friends. We often forget in the middle of a difficult situation that, while we may not be able to control the situation, we can control our experience of it.

When did you last argue with yourself about something you had mixed feelings about? 

I think it was about my daughter and discipline. Last night, she had finished dinner, gotten down from her highchair, and started digging in a houseplant with a tortilla chip, throwing dirt all over the floor. I was torn, trying to compromise between what is in her best interest and not too unpleasant for conflict-avoidant me.

Where is your favorite family getaway and when will you next go there?

Our favorite place to meet up with all of our family is Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands. It is an amazing place to visit: incredibly pristine, unadulterated wilderness with hiking, kayaking, biking, blackberry bushes, plums and apples falling off the trees, sea otters, whales, bald eagles, deer, lakes to swim in, and the Puget Sound, which is freezing cold (good for a New Year's Day polar bear plunge). It's awesome! My parents moved there and so did my husband's parents, so our families vacation together.

Kara, you are delightful, thank you.

- by Oralia Schatzman

View Kara's professional bio | See previous interviews