Augustine M.K. Choi, 57, was recently appointed as the dean of Weill Cornell Medicine. He is the first Korean-American to become the permanent dean of an Ivy League institution. Choi, selected unanimously by Cornell’s 19 Board of Overseers, spoke with the Korea Daily via telephone on Jan. 18.
-You are the first Korean-American to hold the position.
“Just as it was seven months ago when I held the position as the interim dean, it is obviously a huge honor. I hope to maximize the results along with our students, doctors and faculty members in providing treatment, health care needs and other scientific researches and education.”
-What is your biggest goal for the next five years of your term?
“Expanding our medical services, recruiting skillful professors and developing new medical techniques through diversified methods of researching. Weill Cornell plans to expand our services to Brooklyn, Queens and Lower Manhattan after years of primarily serving the Upper East Side. We hope to assure that we maintain the quality individuals at our medical center on top of more skillful individuals we’d like to recruit. Also, we hope to develop and further expand a variety of researches we’ll be conducting.”
-Do you have an advice for Korean students?
“Efforts do not betray you. That is especially the case in the medical field. You must be loyal to endless research, practice and sacrificing for your goals. More than anything, you must do what you love to do.”
-Do you have plans to bridge the medical industries of Korea and U.S.?
“Korea already has the best medical services just like the U.S. does. I visit Korea every year and I’d imagine that there will be opportunities for partnerships in the future with various researches. There are no specific plans just yet.”
-You have a reputation for being a stern researcher. You’re even called a physician-scientist.
“I once published a report in the Nature magazine in 2000. It was the first time for anyone to write about the protective effects on cells when carbon monoxide is injected into the body. It was also published in 2003 and in 2016, more researches were published on pulmonary emphysema and infections. I’ve written more than 230 dissertations. My passion for researching will continue even during my term.”
-Your father was also a medical practitioner.
“I’d say it’s a coincidence. My father was a doctor and so is my wife at the moment. It’s true that my two sons are also attending medical schools, but I never told them to become doctors. They naturally peaked an interest in science and math and developed a passion for treating illnesses.”
Who is Dr. Choi?
Born in 1959, Choi immigrated to the U.S. as a middle school student when he was just 12. He was formerly a professor and Johns Hopkins, Yale and Harvard. Although Choi specializes in respiratory treatments, he is better known as a medical scholar in the industry. In 2011, he received the Ho-Am Prize in Medicine in South Korea.
By Joo Yooyoung Hwang