Gulfport — It’s been a long journey from Seoul, South Korea, to Gulfport for Dr. Jhinho Kim, a diplomate of the American Board of Neurosurgery. He endured a war in his home country, had an older brother and sister killed by the Communists, studied in college and medical school for 15 years, and practiced his intense specialty in five states.
After practicing in Orange County, Calif., for almost 30 years, he moved here last year to join the emerging neuroscience team at Memorial Hospital. He had met another member of the team, Dr. James Doty, who urged him to move to Mississippi where his skills were needed.
“We’re trying to build a neuroscience program here at Memorial and I’m glad to be a piece of the pie,” he said. “Dr. Doty is a dynamic man and has been instrumental in getting this thing done.”
Filling a need
A well-trained addition to the team, Kim performed the first brain aneurysm surgery done at Memorial in 15 years. “I’m filling a need and that’s good. My services are needed,” he says.
Kim has served as a teaching fellow, research fellow and as an assistant professor at the UCLA School of Medicine. He is licensed in California, New York, Massachusetts and Mississippi and has been published in numerous medical journals. He is certified by the American Board of Neurosurgery and is a member of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.
Life began for Kim 64 years ago in Seoul where he says his early childhood was very happy. “My family was reasonably well-to-do according to the living standards of that time,” he said. “I was eight years old when war broke out. We experienced war and fleeing the battleground,” he said. “My family lost everything, and we lived under the Communists until the Americans came.”
By far the worst loss was losing an older brother and sister who were kidnapped and killed by the Communists. The Kim family was considered counter- revolutionaries because they were intelligent people and owned land. The parents and three brothers survived and moved back to Seoul after the war.
Kim earned bachelor and doctor of medicine degrees from Seoul National University and migrated to Detroit, Mich., in 1966 to serve a residency in general surgery at Grace Hospital. He was motivated to come to the U.S. after an older brother came here for high-level military training.
“I was in the seventh or eighth grade and he told me all about America. I was impressed,” he recalls. “I wanted to go abroad to study, then go back home to teach, but my plans changed.”
The young Kim’s interest in neuro anatomy grew and he served residencies in that specialty at Tufts-New England Medical Centre in Boston and Rhode Island Hospital in Providence.
“It started in neuro anatomy class. I was fascinated,” he says. “A lot of students are turned off by its intensity and hardness. A professor of neurosurgery visited and spoke. He was a pioneer of neurosurgery at the time and that left a deep impression on me.”
He acknowledges that his arduous specialty is very demanding mentally and physically. It deals with diseases involving the brain, spinal cord, nerve injuries, trauma and pituitary gland. Surgeries can last up to 15 hours. Like other healthcare professionals, he feels rewarded with saving lives and making patients’ lives better.
Kim, however, has no regrets about his choice of specialty. “I would not change anything,” he said. “I must be selective and keep up with advancing techniques and research, especially being on my own and not in a university setting.”
He recommends neurosurgery to students who are deeply committed to years of concentrated study; about 15 including college, medical school and residencies. “It requires a great deal of thinking and patience and you need to have stamina. I don’t know how my wife has put up with me for 40 years. It’s been a long journey,” he says, “but when you’re doing something worthwhile, it’s worth it.”
Surgeons are needed along the Gulf Coast and Kim is glad he came. “I feel I can add something to the community and Memorial Hospital is well equipped for the neuroscience team,” he said.
Outside the O.R.
He and his wife, Youngsun, were fortunate that their home was not blown away or flooded by Katrina. “Besides, my wife likes the beach,” Kim adds.
He keeps up his stamina with tennis, golf, walking and exercising but admits it gets harder as he gets older. For relaxation, he makes time to read material other than medical journals — biographies and books about music, science and different religions. “I recently read a book about Abraham Lincoln,” he said. “I like to learn new things, and generally, I don’t read fiction.”
Music plays an important role in the Kim family, too. Dr. Kim played the clarinet in high school and studied the cello for seven years with his son to spur the younger Kim’s interest. His wife studied piano for many years and one daughter is a persistent piano student. “We enjoy music and if I retire I may play the cello again,” Kim said.
The Kims have three grown children — two daughters and a son — and two grandchildren. They all live in California and none entered the medical profession. Dr. Kim says that’s because they saw what he went through. One daughter is director of Amnesty International and the son runs an Asian community center.
“They’re all doing fine,” Kim says. “They’re not getting wealthy, but they’re doing the right things.”
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.