Doris Kim, M.D. General Surgery Chief

Doris Kim, M.D. was born in Chicago, Illinois but spent most of her childhood in Thousand Oaks, CA. She has two younger siblings, Eric and Jocelyn. Her father worked in biopharmaceuticals in both California and Korea. Her mother currently teaches Korean language at a community college in Las Vegas.

As a first born child of an immigrant family, the value of hard work and education was never lost on Doris. She was accepted to Taft, a prestigious boarding school in Connecticut, and she eagerly left home at the young age of 13. She met brilliant and talented students in an environment that celebrated following one’s passions. It was during high school she went on her first mission trip to Mexico where she helped rebuild homes. She also became so devoted to her study of the cello, she decided to continue her education in music after graduation.

Doris attended Lawrence University in Appleton, WI, both a liberal arts college and a music conservatory. Her curriculum was a blend of science, literature, and the symphony, allowing her to indulge in all her interests. She graduated with a degree in Neuroscience with minors in English and psychology, but was uncertain what she wanted to do with it. Her cello professor invited her to teach at a music camp in Haiti with her the summer after her graduation. The opportunity to combine her two interests of music and service was too good to pass up.

That month in Haiti, she had the good fortune of meeting other Americans who were working for health education non-profits and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Doris had never seen that level of poverty, and the health disparities that came with it. She was so inspired by the efforts of these researchers, she decided to pursue a career in medicine.   

The following years, she worked in a lab in Seoul, South Korea, and then got a Masters degree in biomedical science at Tuft’s University. She subsequently went to University of Toledo College of Medicine and obtained her M.D. She continued incorporating service into her studies, going on a medical mission trip once or twice a year as a medical student.

Doris had a natural affinity for the operating room, and matched at the Medical University of South Carolina for General Surgery in 2015. Between her time spent in the OR, the hospital and King Street, she managed to go on two surgical medical mission trips to the Dominican Republic. She also traveled to Costa Rica, Peru, France and Spain with friends and family.

Doris will be an Advanced Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery fellow at UC Davis next year. She is thrilled to carry on the MUSC legacy on the West Coast under the tutelage of another previous MUSC general surgery graduate, Dr. Mohamad Ali!

After fellowship, Doris is excited to begin a career as a bariatric and foregut surgeon. She also hopes to use her skill set to improve the accessibility of surgical care, and when possible laparoscopic surgery, in developing countries.

Doris will always be grateful for the training she received at MUSC, and the great friends she made in Charleston.

Reflections

Dear mentors, colleagues and friends,

I came to MUSC without knowing a single soul in Charleston. Not only was I in a strange new culture, stepping into a terrifying new role as “Doctor Kim,” I was doing it without the support of family or friends. I felt like an anonymous intern most days of my first year here, but I didn’t realize how much my attendings were already invested in me.  

Early on, I didn’t think I would survive surgical residency. Being at a tertiary referral center, it felt like I saw very few “wins” in surgery, and was instead surrounded by the complications surgery can bring. The burden of potentially hurting people felt more than I could bear. When I was considering other careers, several attendings reached out urging me to not act rashly. 

Dr. Streck told me he would support me in whatever way I wanted, but still believed I would excel in surgery. Dr. Pullat expressed I had the potential for a great career in surgery, and it would be tough, but to know that my happiness would not have to be sacrificed for it. When Dr. Byrne heard I was considering leaving, he took me aside and shook me. He said “No. You’re too good. You have to keep going.”

Even when I had one foot out the door, my attendings never stopped supporting me - both as a surgical trainee and as a human being.  Luckily, I’ve learned feeling the weight of the trust patients give their surgeons, is not a bad thing. Instead, it motivates me to be the best surgeon I can be. I know I can do this, and do it well, with educators like these building me up.

To my teachers, thank you for never giving up on me. You saw me as a surgeon, even when I lost that part of my identity. Thank you for your guidance, support and most of all, your patience. I feel tremendously honored to rise through the ranks and perform one of the best jobs in the world.

Doris Kim at SESC

To my mentor, Dr. Morgan, thank you for being my role model and friend. You amaze me with how you run your own department, research lab, and family, and how you do it effortlessly and in style!

Doris tribute message

To my fellow chiefs, thank you for your comradery. For the good and the bad, no one else will ever understand what we’ve been through!! I am in awe of all your accomplishments already, and feel so lucky to call you my peers. 

To my fellow residents, thank you for the compassion and dedication you bring to work every day. Your efforts challenged me to continue to learn and grow as a resident.    

Now I’m leaving a place I’ve never felt more at home, and the biggest family I could have imagined. It breaks my heart to leave and move onto the next phase, but when I do, I hope I can make you all proud.

For my family: I could not have accomplished my goals without the steady support of my family. I will always be grateful for the sacrifices my parents made for me. To my brother and sister, thank you for reminding me to slow down and have fun along the way!

Doris with her family

Testimonials