Most sixth graders don’t know what they want for lunch, let alone what they want to be when they grow up. But Joshua Kim, a freshman at MUSC College of Medicine, was not like most sixth-graders. While most of her friends were playing video games or watching their hometown Chicago White Sox win the World Series, Kim was reading about a pediatric neurosurgeon named Ben Carson.
In particular, it was Carson’s work separating conjoined twins that most fascinated the then 11-year-old Kim. So, for his end-of-year class project, he dressed in lab coats and latex gloves and reported on Carson. And a flame ignited.
Kim’s father, a successful podiatrist with a passion for his work, had already sparked an interest in the middle schooler, so it was virtually inevitable that he would be drawn to medicine.
In high school, Kim never shied away from her dream of following in Carson’s footsteps by becoming a pediatric surgeon, but an undeniable knack for doing things with her hands took her on a few detours along the way.
“I always wanted to figure out how things work and do the next big thing,” he said.
In high school, he taught himself how to build jet rockets. (Yes, you read that right.) While in undergraduate school at Northwestern University, he crafted a fully functional Ironman suit so detailed you’d have sworn it came from the props department at Marvel Studios. And that’s when an idea germinated: What if he was able to combine his love of building with his passion for healing?
“I feel like I’ve always balanced that duality between medicine and design. It just took me a while to realize that I didn’t have to choose one or the other,” said he declared.
After completing his undergraduate degree, Kim was accepted into the Segal Design Institute’s Master of Engineering Design Innovation program at Northwestern University. This is where he took his designs to the next level. There was the gadget to help people recovering from strokes, the device to speed up the time a cancer patient went through radiation therapy, the pediatric injection device that aimed to reduce anxiety caused by an injection.
“I saw how powerful an empathetic, human-centered design could be in healthcare,” he said. “And I just wanted to keep doing more things to help.”
With the ink still wet on his diploma and a prestigious job offer already in hand, he was ready for his next big move. But a professor asked Kim if, before making career decisions, he would do her a favor and meet with one of her former colleagues. So Kim sat down with MUSC oncologist David Mahvi, MD, and a fork in the road quickly appeared.
“It was immediately apparent that he was seeing the world through a different lens,” Mahvi said. “He looked at things from a design perspective, which is so refreshing in the medical field. He just approached things from a totally different angle.
So Mahvi offered him a job.
Within a month, Kim moved to Charleston and found herself working alongside Mahvi and Michael Yost, Ph.D. The task: to leverage her unique skills and help create the human-centered design program at MUSC. The program would teach its students how to combine medicine, design and technology to improve healthcare. Kim lent her design expertise and passion for medicine to get the program up and running immediately.
Now in her third year, Kim designed much of the curriculum that exists in the program today. He even did quite a bit of teaching along the way.
“When I came here, I literally had no teaching experience,” he laughed. “But now it’s something I really appreciate.”
Well, appreciated. Right now Kim is on the other end – learning right now. The first-year medical student embarked on the second part of his master plan – this time looking to add a practical element to his healthcare contributions.
Going to medical school and, in turn, temporarily stepping away from the human-centered design curriculum — something Mahvi always knew was something Kim aspired to do — turned out bittersweet for both.
“He was very important to me,” Kim said. “He made me feel like I was one of his own kids that he was sending to college.”
Mahvi’s fatherly pride is evident: “It’s crazy to think, but Josh became an educator in the surgery department that transcended MUSC. He actually did Grand Rounds. This is unheard of for someone who is not a surgeon.
This means Mahvi is left with a gaping hole to fill the schedule. “Our hope is to bring him back one day so he can help us develop it even more,” he said. “I see it as this bridge between design and healthcare. There just aren’t many people like him. »
Kim shares her hopes.
“I really hope I find the time to come back and work with the program again. Marrying these two worlds together is so exciting,” he said. this moment, but I’m always thinking about what’s next. I’m a designer, a maker, a dreamer. It’s the core of who I am. So I’m always going to be thinking about innovation and how we can give life to these innovations.