I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California to immigrants from South Korea. I am the youngest of four children, and I’m thankful that my older sisters are three of my best friends. Growing up, I disliked school intensely, and instead, focused on playing water polo. I fell in love with the sport when I was nine years old and played throughout high school. Through dedication, perserverance, and commitment to practicing, I was named a Junior Olympic All-American, selected First-Team All-League, and voted Team Captain by my peers. Because of my success in water polo, I was recruited to Johns Hopkins University to continue playing at the collegiate level, but as a senior in high school, my grandparents fell ill and passed away which drastically changed my future trajectory. Seeing my grandmother lose her ability to speak and walk due to a stroke and watching my gradfather bravely batter cancer motivated me to pursue a career in medicine.
However, when I arrived at Hopkins, it was immediately clear that I was not prepared for a pre-medical education. I did not have a strong science or math foundation and I struggled as a Ffreshman. My GPA was a 3.2 my first semester, but because Hopkins has a Pass/Fail system, I was able to use this time to learn and adjust. I refused to give up and made the tough decision to end my water polo career to focus on my studies and honor my grandparents. Although my water polo experiences could not directly facilitate my studies, it trained me to beleive that I would improve with practice. I focused intensely to learn new science concepts and through my growth, I had the opportunity to serve as a TA for Organic Chemistry Lab and Tissue Engineering to pass on what I had learned to other students, and it was a joy to see others succeed. I also dove headfirst into biomedical research opportunities. While I didn’t have any previous experience, I completed smaller tasks like washing glassware to the best of my abilities until I was entrusted with running real experiments myself. Before leaving Baltimore, I had worked in three separate labs to develop xeno-transplantable corneal tissues to address corneal donor tissue shortage and also validated new technologies to monitor cancer disease progression non-invasively using a blood sample. These experiences opened my eyes to the potential for biomedical reserach to solve pressing medical challenges, and I decided to pursue dual-degree training in both medicine and reserach to one day become a physician-scientist.
I was incredibly fortunate to be accepted into the UCLA-Caltech Medical Scientist training program to continue my training at home in LA near family and friends. I’ve been taking advatange of being home by surfing as often as I can. So far in my training program, I have completed the first two years of medical school and during that time, launed a medical technology incubator, Sling Health LA, to empower fellow medical students to develop innovative solutions for relevant clinical problems. I have since moved to Caltech to complete my PhD in the Shapiro lab, and am hoping to use this website as a platform to share some of the things I’ve learned on my journey as a pre-medical student and MD/PhD candidate to help others as they prepare for medical school.