Physician Spotlight: Dr. Jhinho Kim
It's been a long journey from Seoul, South Korea to Gulfport for Dr. Jhinho Kim, a diplomat 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, Cal., for almost 30 years, he moved to Gulfport in 2005 to join the emerging neuro science team at Memorial Hospital.
The decision to move was partly due to Kim's meeting another member of the Memorial neuro team, Dr. James Doty, who urged him to move to Mississippi where his skills and experience are needed.
"We're trying to build a neuro science program here at Memorial and I'm glad to be a part of the pie," he said. "Dr. Doty is a dynamic man and has been instrumental in getting this thing done. It is coming along quite well."
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 said. "Moving here was the right thing to do."
Kim has served as a teaching fellow, research fellow and as an assistant professor at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine. He is licensed in California, New York, Massachusetts and Mississippi and has 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 living standards of that time," he said. "I was eight years old when war broke out. We experienced war and fleeing the battleground. 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. Kim's parents and three brothers survived and moved back to Seoul after the war.
Kim earned a bachelor and doctorate 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 United States 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 recalled. "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 Center in Boston and Rhode Island Hospital in Providence.
"It started in neuro anatomy class. I was fascinated," he said, with enthusiasm. "A lot of students are turned off by its intensity and hardness. A professor of neuro surgery visited and spoke. He was a pioneer of neuro surgery 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 neuro surgery to students who are deeply committed to years of concentrated study, which calls for some 15 years of 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 said, "but when you're doing something worthwhile, it's worth it. I enjoy what I'm doing."
Surgeons are needed along the Mississippi 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 neuro science team," he said.
He and his wife, Youngsun, moved to the area just a few months before Hurricane Katrina dealt a devastating blow. In spite of that, they are going to stay. They were fortunate that their home was not blown away or flooded by Katrina. "Besides, my wife likes the beach," Kim added.
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. 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; none entered the medical profession. Kim says that's because they saw what he went through and how hard he's worked. 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."