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  Subject  [Eulogy] In Memory of H.M. Lee, M.D. (이형모 선배님)      Date  2016-06-10 11:18:26
      Name   조중행*69        Hit




In Memory of H.M.Lee.,MD

A belated  note of "thank you" and  eulogy
from  a young surgeon to be, 1971

Sometime in the  late fall  in 1971, following the fall congress of American College of Surgeon,a Korean Surgeon from USA  visited SNUH and gave a lecture  in  surgical grand rounds.

His name was 이형모, HM Lee, M.D.  The topic was on "Extracorporeal porcine liver perfusion for hepatic coma in Liver cirrhosis" and we were told it was presented in "Forum" section of the ACS congress. 
Dr. Kim Jin-bok (김진복) introduced him in his usual flamboyant style,who was young and  in high spirit, having  just returned from 1 1/2 year stint at the Peter Bent Brigham hospital in Boston, MA. At the end of  the talk, Prof. Kim Soo-tae (김수태)  reminisced about the earlier days of the department of  surgery, SNUH during the Korean war and Busan Refugee years (1950-1951 or so) during which period how much he learned from Dr. HM Lee before he left Korea for his new training at  the Medical College of Virginia, Richmond.

A young resident was in the audience,whose goal was a  cardiovascular surgeon but was somewhat disheartened by the rather poor outcomes of heart surgeries at SNUH  back  in those days.
The content of the work/research and the lecture was impressive.

But most importantly, I clearly rememer the unspoken and spoken sense of his  humble, gentle manner, that permeated throuout the presentation, which became deeply imprinted in my heart. At the beginning of the talk, he credited and emphacized most of the work/accomplishments to his colleagues  including  Dr.David Hume, despite of himself  being the first author.

On that day, in auditorium A, SNUH,1971, he was giving a "flower sermon" (aka Jack Kerouac or 拈華示衆  ) to me  on "what kind of human being one should be" before being a good surgeon or a good professional.

Among other things, he was one of the factors  I chose to come to the United States  to  further my surgical training.

In   mid-1973, I arrived in  the United  States as I was somewhat late  in the application process (after matching program) but  I did send in my application for general surgery residency at  the Medical College of Virginia, in Richmond among other programs.  At that time , BB  Lee 선배님 was finishing up the last year of repeat- GS residency  under Dr.Walter Lawrence ,the interim chair, following the unexpected death of David Hume, the pioneer transplant surgeon, if I remember correctly.  Both  Drs. HM Lee  and BB Lee gave kind additional push for me  in addition to letters from Drs. 이영균, 고광욱. 
I still remember  his secretary  picked me up, this confused Korean youngster from Chicago, at the Richmond airport and  drove me to the hotel in Dr.Lee's brown new Mercedes, which blew my mind , a kid from the poor country, Korea. 

Upon arrival at his office,  I was very surprisd to see  the well-framed, large " SNU Medical School Graduation certificate" (aka 한문/한글 서울의대 졸업장)  on the wall.  I have fond memories of  him introducing me to Dr Lawrence , referencing my bibliography from Korea and  the recommendation letter from prof. Lee Young-kyoon for the kid who ran away from him.

He explained BB Lee's  remarkable accomplishments through the difficult four years at Richmond, which BB Lee  reiteraed over the dinner  for this unkown kid at his house that evening. It was an honor to meet him and his wife for the first time  in person because  he was a kind of a  legend among us, young surgical residents in SNU and his wife happened to be  the sister of good friend of mine from my high school days.

Despite this, I chose another program for different reasons ( my wife's residency,etc among others).

Over the years,I have closely  followed  the  accomplishments of  MCV  transplant team of  HM Lee  in  GS side as well as  Dr.Richard Lower, another remarkable heart transplant surgeon, who was  a protege of Norman Shumway. One year, I was  again humbled to learn  from a surgical journal that  he became the president of American Transplant Society.

Until these days, sometimes I wonder what my career could have been  like  through "the Virginia road not taken" (aka Robert Frost). I did  talk to Prof. HM Lee before  I made that choice in the winter of 1973 and sent him  Christmas cards  next couple of years, after which I unfortunately/shamefully lost contact with him, in the midst of miserably busy years of  a  junior general surgery resident, repeated.

Three years after his passing, here  to this web of many SNUCM alumni, I  submit  this note, a belated thank you and  eulogy for  late Dr. HM Lee, who was one of the guiding lights for me  throughout  the years.

I do believe he symbolized the excellence  of  SNU Medical school, someone  who  survived through those trying years of Korean history, through his professional accomplishiments, along with maintaining  his human characters of  oriental humility and virtue at its best form.

Many potential politics of different specialties aside, if  SNUCMAA would consider  one alumnus to be remembered for future generation, I believe there is no better person than Dr. HM Lee.



  No. 1

Dear Dr.BB Lee.
After. 40+ years, I hope my memory is good enough and my above writings are reasonably accurate, Dr.Lee 선배님.

Dr .Kim S S 선배님, thank you for uploading my writing in word file in such a beautiful format ,while I am on the road.

I did try few hrs last night with my Jet-lag keeping me up. Maybe it was chrome or internet explore.
Made me feel bad about my pathetic computer skills.

Thank you again. It did go through this I pad.

  No. 2

 Hi, Dr. Choh;

Good job !
Please see the codes and see how simple the codes are.
This is what happens when you write codes from ground up.
As you know, we tend to keep the old memories well
but the recent memory?... God help us !! ㅎ, ㅎ, ㅎ.

  No. 3


Dear Dr. 조중행


I do thank you to share your memory on Dr. HM Lee, not many SNU alumni/colleagues here in the U.S. got involved closely enough to share their memories. But I am sure quite a many Korean American physicians and surgeons along the Eastern Seaboard would remember him through his contribution to KMAA as president for many years. Your memories are fresher than mine through all these many years! Strangely, such small bit of memory triggers another one completely forgotten for such long years. Yes, gone are the days, and such memories always make me feel so nostalgic.


As you correctly pointed out, many remember HM as such humble gentleman with full of self control remaining in a low key all the times; he was indeed the idol to all the surgery house staffs during our training days in Richmond and also remained as a beacon to shine the right path to many, leaving so many legendary stories. On his anniversary/memorial service last year, many of his residents stayed till late, way after the midnight, to share so many reminiscences over the drink.


Indeed, HM was just perfect person Dr. David Hume, our big boss, would need for his program/department. Dr. Hume happened to be so rich that he also owned his own plane - the last one was a turbojet before he crashed!- to fly by himself all over the country including Boston to stop over to take his former colleagues to his private island in the Caribbean, etc so often.


As a son of a rich rancher in Illinois, Dr. Hume inherited a huge fortune from his family- we also heard Mrs. Hume received a million dollar in cash as a wedding gift from her father as a sole daughter of one of richest families among New Englander/Bostonian WASP!-; Hume was such flamboyant and outgoing to reach out to any, whoever he wants to bring down to Richmond to work together including Walter Lawrence from Memorial Sloan Kettering and Dick Lower from Stanford/ Norman Shumway's team for example.


So, Dr. Hume was simply too busy to spare the time for the house staffs besides we couldn't dare to ask. Naturally, we all came to HM to ask for the helps on many nitty gritty stuffs; So we all agree, without HM's dedication to fill/take care of all these needs almost singlehandedly, the MCV transplant program in particular would have not been prospered to become a world Mecca for transplant surgeons in those days.


Many Bostonians/his Harvard clans still remember David Hume as one of famous original trios of Joseph Murray's transplant team at Peter Bent - if Hume would have survived, he sure had received Novel Prize with Jo Murray together as Jo narrated!- before he left Harvard early to establish his own kingdom in Richmond, Virginia based on world leading transplant and vascular surgery program he built with HM. So, many acknowledge Hume would have not become a legendary surgeon without hidden dedication by HM - Hume died at the peak of his career by the airplane crash while he had flown back from LA to Richmond, 6 months before I finished my chief residency-.

So, among Humera Society members
we joke 'NO HM Lee, there would be NO David Hume!' which is absolutely true.

Dr. HM paid way much more than he had to have such special privilege to be listed/added for his name on the title of MCV Transplant Center together with David Hume, to changing to 'Hume-Lee Transplant Center', we are all so proud of. I was happened to be there to witness all these saga with great debt to HM.


As I wrote through my memoir/eulogy on SIGAETOP last year(?) - for the first time in Korean alphabets-, I owe to HM for my whole new career, say 100%, to start and also stay on right track. Without his steady guide/recommendation as my THE first mentor, I would have hopelessly strayed out from current track. How could I forget tons of memories after the memories, staying at Dr. Lee's house/living room so many nights till 3:00 AM, to talk and talk about whether I should go back to Korea/SNUH, shamefully to keep Mrs. HM to provide late(?) coffee all the times!


Indeed, no one other than HM knew on my personal situation best at that time after my wife to help my decision correctly to choose the States to continue to study in vascular surgery as well than going back to SNUH only with limited experiences to transplant surgery. Because, even before I met HM in Richmond, Dr. HM knew that I initially wanted to study in vascular surgery - till that time I didn't know a thing about transplant surgery!- and tentatively arranged to go to Strong Memorial Hospital of Rochester/NY to Charles Rob through China Medical Board (CMB) but persuaded to switch to transplant surgery by Profs. Min ByungChul and Han YongChul in behalf of SNUH and come to Richmond instead.


The story is, soon after I was appointed to SNUH in 1968, I took the advantage to apply to CMB of Yen-Ching Plan which sponsored one young faculty member of SNUH every year for 1 to 2 year fellowship anywhere in the U.S. Through the formal exam/interview by Dr. McCoy of U Minn in behalf of CMB I was selected among the candidates for Year 1969. But within a week, Prof. Chin BH, Chair of Surgery Dept put a lot of pressure to me together with Student Dean/Prof Shin DH and Prof. Chu DW of Radiology to making the  concession to pass up my legitimate right to 선배, the second runner up based on the seniority, 3 year ahead.  


As the compensation to give my concession to SNUH decision and agree/consent to their plan to rescind the final decision to choose me by Prof. McCoy, Dean/Prof Han SS asked to Profs. Min BC and Han YC to arrange me to come to Richmond to David Hume/HM Lee as an official trip for 2 years; it was equivalent to CMB project but turned out a better option for me to be able to resign from SNUH later to start my residency again through MCV, with no obligation to come back immediately like CMB fellowship - some well known my senior colleague of SNUH, who took the opportunity of CMB after I left for the States but did not fulfill to come back to SNUH immediately, was literally fired from SNU I heard later-.


So Dr. HM who understood my unique situation, passed up my mixed emotion of love and hate through such unique situation involved to all these SNUH politics to David Hume and I was  granted for a new chance to try the residency all over again to become an American vascular surgeon as well. Alas, it was way over 40 years no one hardly recall! C'est la vie!

And I survived through so many agonies HM kindly gave his shoulder to let me cry on. So I miss HM all the time, but suddenly realizing that there is no more opportunity to drive down I-95 at the crack of dawn - I call it 'sentimental journey'!- to visit to HM to Richmond whenever I feel like to talk as before listening to his such soothing assurance in low baritone voice.


BB Lee- '63


  No. 4


Dear Dr. 조중행

I became so emotional when I rushed to read through your memoir earlier so that I failed to respond to a few interesting comments you made.


In regard to your comment "--- he (HM) credited and emphasized most of the work/accomplishments to his colleagues  including  Dr. David Hume, despite of himself  being the first author.", I would like to add a few more words to verify how Dr. HM handled human relationship.


Dr. HM was a silent care taker indispensable to Dr. Hume. Interestingly, Hume was a typical Peter Bent man to have trained as a scholar/professor, not like a MGH man trained as a true(?) practical surgeon- I simply quote what my another mentor, Melville Williams, MGH man said to me, whom Dr. Hume brought down to Richmond from Boston as the director of surgical lab. Mel is also a tremendous surgeon with the talent who taught me literally how to hold the knife, how to control the breathing for the microsurgery (we, fellows had to learn the liver transplant to rat/mouse using a microscope), etc-. Mel was bought out by the Johns Hopkins later to found Richmond style of combined transplant and vascular surgery.


Nevertheless, I speculate Dr. Hume was smart enough to know himself very well with his liability, not having such talent- we call 'born as a surgeon'-  besides insufficient practice to improve his skill like MGH men. But Dr. Hume took an advantage in a way on HM with such talent and always excused for his busy schedule asking to HM to take over to finish whenever the surgery became messy/bloody. And voila, once Dr. HM took over the case from Dr. Hume his operation was a like magic to change the whole scene like an ugly duckling to such graceful swan!


It was a sheer fun to watch how HM makes a timely decision with swift action with no mumbo jumbo to waste the time and commands the team so skillfully as the captain of the ship. Dr. HM was truly a 'born surgeon' with such talent of nimble technique with sharp surgical decision, not many I know of have- among Koreans I saw another born surgeon, that is, Dr. Min ByongChul. 


Indeed, Dr. Min BC was another beacon to our generation when I started my residency at SNUH back in early '60; he was one and only as well as the first ever among SNUH faculty, so called professors, giving such fresh inspiration to young generation based on his unique American experiences no one had. In those days, for example, the cholecystectomy was a big thing but Dr. Min showed us how to do! He moved so precisely to dissect the gall bladder with no waste only with the metzenbaum to make the operation like a piece of art.


So I scrubbed in to his case or at least observed whenever Dr. Min did operation to learn/watch  how he handles the metz one day and how to handle the forceps another day and jotted them down in my diary NOT to forget. Dr. Min was sheer legendary among young surgeons in Korea giving a  flower sermon to all of us as you mentioned on HM.


But by such high pressure/jealousy among his colleagues, Dr. Min had to leave SNUH to start his private practice at ShinYoung Hospital so that I don't think your generation had a chance to  see such art of surgery to learn directly from Dr. Min. Ironically, my father was the one who gave Dr. Min a decisive help to stay in Korea instead of going back to the States through all out financial support giving the land, etc to build the hospital for Dr. Min as the price for his life Dr. Min saved (my father had a hemorrhagic pancreatitis he did surgery to decompress). 


In regard to "Extracorporeal porcine liver perfusion for hepatic coma in Liver cirrhosis " you mentioned, yes, Dr. HM was on charge of the project and I was further actively involved- I believe the last before I finish the fellowship- to the exchange transfusion/perfusion using alive baboons. Ironically when I got almost fatal fulminating hepatitis from the patient - my fellow stuck my finger to give a massive inoculation of B virus while fixing the ruptured aneurysm- soon after I got a job at Georgetown Univ to start the transplant/vascular program, only remained option to save me from hepatic coma was 'exchange transfusion'.


So my senior partner, Chairman, Charlie Currier (he was the fellow when I was a chief resident at MCV) fetched for this regimen to Richmond. But Charlie found out one of our junior residents then at MCV days, Frank Delmonico, who took over the project to complete, packed up the devices to take with him to Boston/MGH. But Frank set up the machine immediately to start/use again on me when I should get further deteriorated. But I survived without exchange transfusion.


Frank later wrote at MGH Bulletin as a part of his memoir about how frantic he was to reset the exchange transfusion machine to save his senior colleague oneself who taught/handed down to him (Frank was the chief of transplant surgery at MGH and director of surgical research at Harvard Univ till he retired lately). Indeed, as Frank said, the life is full of such ironical events we cannot avoid.


Warm regards,

BB Lee-'63




  No. 5

신백효 -65 
글이나마 자주 뵙게되니 기쁩니다. 의사회의 일로 가끔 이형모 선배님을 뵈왔습니다. 저는 그분을 알게된 것을 큰 영광으로 생각합니다. 신백효

  No. 6

I was fortunate enough to see Dr Min BC's surgical skills and judgements through 1969-1973,assisted him as a junior resident,from time to time,while he was maintaining his university practice and after work practice at ShinYoung Hospital( Aka Korean version of Tufts. "New England Medical Center).
I must say Korean Surgical History ,especially in clinical side, can be classified pre Min and Post Min era.
Even ,with understanding /poor condition of Korean infrastructure ,history, back in those days, surgical skills in most SNU senior surgeons those days were far from desired,at best.
I have memories of his brilliant biliary surgery,total gastrectomy.....Duhamel operation for congenital megacolon (aganglionosis)....
When I was doing surgery residency in The US, USA Penn Professors and fellow residents used to ask me where I learned the surgical skills,using Metzenbaum scissors,Potts forceps......in somewhat envious expression.

Back in early 70,s. Junior surgical residents of SNU used to share night calls at 신영병원,which I participated. Mostly peaceful nights at the on call room,reading books ,walking around neighborhood, assisting him (dr Min)or 원치규 for rare Em surgery.
Extra money was good .I did stop the venture willingly ,when I learned that Prof 이영균 was not in favor of the concept via indirectly sent message.

One of those younger residents in later 70,s is 이승규 ,who is the lead liver transplant surgeon in Korea today.

  No. 7


나는 이형모 선배님을 만나지도 못했고 알지도 못했지만, 들어 보건데 정말로 훌륭한 분이였다고 생각된다.
Whom among the teaching staff, back at our medical school in Korea, can we say with such a respect?
I wish if  I had a chance to meet such a person. I have not heard anyone like him.

Since we are talking about our school in our past, I want to tell you what I saw and what I felt....
두서없이 몇마디 적는다.

I did my rotating intership at SNUH before coming to US.
I was assigned in surgical department - General surgery, OG-Gyn, and then Orthopedic.
During those short times, I scrubbed and watched our professors doing the surgeries.
I scrubbed in Dr. BC Min as well and had chance to see him doing the so-called wonderful and miraculous job.
I also scrubbed in Prof 신한수 (당시의 삼부인과 과장) and watched his Werthein procedures.
산부인과 residents들은 항상 그의 4시간 Werthein with 2 unit transfusion에 입을모아 극구 찬양하는것도 들었다.
 Dr. BC Min도 역시 비슷한 식의 Cholecystectomy를 하는것을 보았는데 아무것도 모르느 Intern으로서 그저 그랬다.
그외에도 소위 외과교실의 위풍 당당한 교수, 부교수님도 보았다  Drs. 김수태, 김자훈, 진병호... and etc.

미국에 와서 개인병원원에 와서 개업외과의사 (교수가 아닌)들의 수술을 1:1로 매번 assist했다.
SNUH에서는 나는 세번째 조수여었지만....
산부인과 돌면서 미국 Wertheim도 직접 assist하면서 봤다.
몇달이 지나기전에 내가 미국에서 깨달은것은 한국교수들의 수술 수준 (Our hero, Dr. BC Min도 포함 !!)은 Pitiful (!!)
내지 일종의 Joke처럼 보였다. 한심하기 짝이 없었다.
Wertheim만도 미국것은 모두 2시간이내, blood transfusion도 가끔밖에는 없었고 Cholecustectomy도
길어야 반시간 (조수 한명으로)... 그러니 미국서 새로 온 Dr. BC Min 이 SNUH에서 영웅처럼 보였을수 밖에...
결국 우물안 개구리들이 우물안 개구리 영웅을 만들어 놓고 사는게 1960년대의 한국 외과교실이였다.
SNUH의 똥내나는 복도를 분주히 다니던 professors, residents, and interns were just frogs in a small well then.

Dr. Min이 처음 미국에서 도착해서 IV Electrolyte supplement 를 강의했을때 우리는 모두 환성을 질렀다.
그는 대단한 인기의 영웅이였다. He was gentle, diplomatic, and friendlier compared to other old rigid professors.
He was the hero and symbol of glory !! Then, what happened. He left SNU soon after.
How about Dr. 김온자 ? She was another hero. But when I came to Cincinnati, Ohio, she was there.
What the hell happened? 눈치채고 I didn't ask her why she came there.
I had met Dr. BC Min in US. For such a hero in Korea, I didn't know why he was wandering in US.
I also knew (not met) professor 김자훈, 이진순 came to US to be retrained as interns.
What the hell were they doing here? Why did they have to be doing the internship?
Do you see something very wrong here? So strange and odd. That is, I think, Korea.

이런 상황에서, believe or not, 도미해서 수련했던 몇몇 동문들이 Dr. Min의 Hero의 환상을 재현하러 귀국했다.
그때는 이미 일제가 냄긴 비참한 거지같은 교수들은 사라진지 오래였고, 한국은 변해있었을거다.
(본인은 다시는 서울대 병원에 가지 안었으니 잘은 모르지만)
그렇지 않아도 배타적인 한국인 staff 에다 자기네 입에 풀칠도하기 힘든 사람들 가운데
Dr. 민병철 시대를 꿈꾸는 귀국자에게 일이 제대로 될리가 없었을 거다.
더구나 이미 자리잡었던 유명한 교수님들도 미국으로 기어 나오는데,
What the damn chance were they looking for?

아마 자세한 얘기는 모르지만 이런것들이 문제가 되었으리라.
나의 심장외과 교수 Dr. Alan Lansing은 단 두시간의 Congental Heart 강의로 전 분야를 쉽게 파악하도록 가리켰다.
우리 학생때 이영균 교수께서는 두달 걸려서 Congenital Heart Disease를 가르켰지만
우리 기억에 남는것은 아무것도 없었다. 개념을 가르친것이 아니고 하나 하나 따로 가르친것이다.
Did he really know how to teach congental heart disease? Sorry, he wasn't even close.
I can say that because I became a thoracic surgeon under better teachers.

돌아보면 우리때의 한국 외과는 원시적인것이였다. 다른과도 별수없었던것으로 보였다.
그들은 경성제대 vs. 경의전 정치에 분주했고 월급봉투만 기다리던 교육과는 거리가 멀었던 사람들이였다.
하여간 문교부 65 정년퇴직 법으로 싹 쓸어낸것은 정말 다행한 일이였다.
고작해서 영어 교과서 같이 읽는것이 그들의 강의였는데 , 왜 가정교사해서 죽도록 번돈을 바쳐야했는지 알수없는 일이다.
Can I get refund from SNU? I am not kidding. I mean it.
What have we learned in the medical school, known as so-called SNU ?
그랬던 우리를 미국이 받아주고 훈련시켜준것은 천만 다행인것이다.

아직도 존경할만한 스승없이 혼자 헤맨다. 하긴 갈길은 멀지만, 이제 더 배을 필요도 없긴하다.
혼자 배울줄 아는 습관을 보태서, 그냥 지금 아는것만 같고 happily 살아 보기로 한다.
There are no one above me and no one below me. It is peaceful and comfortable.
And, actually without adding any lies, I am happy in the way I have been and where I am.
Life is finite. It does not last forever.
At our age, if you haven't found your happiness by now, you will never get it.
If you have not found the place you love by now, you will never find it.

I know a lot of guys will get mad at me for what I said here.
However, I don't give a damn.
나는 정직하고 솔직하게 내맘을 표현했을 뿐이다.
We are in US. Please don't live like those guys in SNUH and SNU Medical School.
Even today, over there, I personally know, they have not changed very much.


  No. 8


Dear Dr. 조중행

What a small world, after all!

I somehow thought you are so young way behind me belonging to different generation but surprised to learn we share quite a bit through SNUH in surgery training including Dr. Min BC's tutorship. Indeed, Dr. Min lamented once in a while that he abandoned clinical surgery too early wasting his surgical talents only to switch his career to the administration. But I believe another reason for early abandonment of his career as a surgeon was he had such severe psychological blow with agony- he was literally devastated till fully recovered!- by the disability/dysfunction of right hand following the removal of Schuwannoma surgery along radial/peripheral nerve.


Nevertheless, it is another nice surprise that you also belong to 신영병원 clans Dr. 원치규 was always proud of. Indeed, 이승규 is one of the pearls Dr. Min BC retrieved through 신영병원 and without 이승규's devotion to living related liver transplant program, Asan/Hyundai Hospital would have not become a de facto leader in the surgery in Korea.


Indeed, my SamSung liver transplant team was never able to beat/surpass 이승규's achievement although they made a head start for 5 years ahead of my SamSung surgery program- poor excuse?- which was a carbon copy of Johns Hopkins system I am so proud of. Besides, Dr. Min BC gave his all out efforts to organize the surgery-oriented program when he took over the helm of Asan Hospital from Dr. Lee Moon-Ho while SamSung was structured 100% internal medicine-oriented by Dr. Han YongChul.


Warm regards,

BB Lee-'63

P.S. Dr. Min had his surgery training at New England Hospital/Tufts program as you indirectly specified. When he came back to Korea, he started his new career at Baek/Inje Hospital under the courtship of Dr. Kim Hie-Kyu, but within a few years he finally got on the board to bring a new blood to SNUH to open a new chapter of Korean surgery. Indeed, his Duhamel operation for congenital megacolon was one of his model surgeries we all were eager to learn. 




  No. 9


Dear  운영자 

I am happy with your "정직하고 솔직하게 내맘을 표현" to sharing same view as mine on SNUH though I have no intention to keep the grudge and by all means let bygone be bygone. Gone are the days! But, like you and many others, I vividly remember how embarrassed and angry I was to recognize/admit such pitiful illusion on myself soon after I started my new life at Medical College of Virginia. Simply put, I was shocked to figure out how much I have learned through my 5 year training in SNUH and how short my knowledge was in comparison to others as so called (Korean) board certified surgeon.


Indeed. 'retraining' to be reborn as an American surgeon was a sheer agony for me especially to erase all wrong ideas accumulated/taught through previous SNUH training first before rewriting with correct one. I was full of wrath hating myself with such pitiful illusion given by SNUH so much that I even changed my name to B.B. from ByungBoong- though I had to re-use my full name by the law in these days but always side by side together whenever allowed!- to make a full metamorphosis like Franz Kafka's.


But, it was a long agonizing journey, the longest year of my life with no light at the end of the tunnel till got out with the curses after the curses to SNUH which gave me such total illusion as 우물안 개구리 영웅 as you correctly pointed out. I have no desire nor intention to  blame on those many professors like 김자훈, 진병호 etc, who misguided me hopelessly because the way they/ SNUH taught us was THE best for the survival as Koreans in Korea.


Indeed I knew those professors and their system too well through SNUH training so that I simply hated the way they played and quit! So I responded to my old friends/colleagues of SNUH on their mixed feeling when I went back to Seoul in 1994 to set up the surgery program for SamSung, with honesty. I appealed to them that I did NOT come back belatedly as good(?) old faithful Byung-Boong Lee they remember as one of them but came back as a new BB Lee of American version to share what I learned through over quarter century in the U.S. with my Korean colleagues through a new program of SamSung instead of SNUH. And clearly declared I belong there/U.S. and I will go back when the mission is accomplished NOT like another colleague who begged to them to accept as one of their old faithfuls to bury the bone in Korea.


Thank goodness, I no longer belong to them so that I don't have to play the game as they do in Korea!


BB Lee-'63

P.S. In regard to "교수들의 수술 수준" you mentioned, I have some comments. Indeed, the surgical skill/technical issue is a known liability in academic circle not only in Korea but also here in the U.S. Yes, we do have same issue here! Indeed, surgeons in 'academic' institutes are generally obliged to spend most of time to teach the resident/fellow how to operate so that they have rather limited opportunity to practice to improve their own skills on contrary to the surgeons in private practice. Besides, most of routine cases like fem-pop bypass in our days go to the surgeons in  private practice based on private institutes while all complicated ones come to the teaching institutes. Naturally, the surgeons in private practice are exceedingly skillful especially on technical point of view, way above average academic surgeons with no doubts as you correctly pointed out.


One funny joke in our days was you could become the world best surgical assistants through Mayo training - since all the surgeries are done by big Mayo surgeons as their private patients ?-. I happened to have two colleagues of Mayo training background who had a perpetual problem with 'surgical decision' to make us wondered whether it is true or not.

Indeed, one of major insults to the surgeons trained at MGH is asking whether they were from Peter Bent Brigham Hospital- my boss/mentor, David Hume was Peter Bent man while my another mentor, Mel Williams of the Hopkins was MGH man.


But I strongly believe it matters rather with born talents after all and the improvement by practice has a limit; of course a born surgeon with talents like HM Lee could make a finesse while the academic surgeon with no talent will be stuck with such vicious cycle with no chance to become a good surgeon but could become a professor to give talks and writes only!



  No. 10


Here in a hotel out side of Dublin,Ireland tonight, pursuing old trails of William Butler Yeats,Oscar Wilde,finishing up one of my unfulfilled travel plans of younger days, I want to close the above chapter ,by adding few closing comments.

Basically, 운영자 선배님 was talking about "quality of surgical and medical care, quality of education" of our professors back in those days. I just wish and believe people could read in between lines when I said " far less than desired,even after you factored
socioeconomic milieu of Korea during 1960's-70's under which they were working."

I try not to make mistakes of measuring them on the basis of my ruler I have today and cast a sympathetic eye on those,especially few of them who tried hard in my opinion under the circumstances of those days.

I heard frequently Prof. Kim Soo Tae was economically supported by his father those days to have his ends met in his house-holds, while he was spending many hours in the lab,doing experiments on liver transplant in rats and dogs.

Recently I did research on Prof. 장기려's surgical career(not the part of a Christian life which was so much written up in lay media)and carefully read through his early papers around 1958-1960's, 대한 의학회지,외과학회지)....I have this kind of time since I stopped doing heart surgery last yearㅎ,ㅎ. He left SNUH before my time unfortunately. I am sure the well known conflict between 경의전파(he was) and 제국대학파 was one of the reasons why he left SNUH.

He did his first Right hepatic lobectomy in Busan 대학교 and published 7-8 cases in 1959,first time in Korea and his review on the subject in the paper showed "zero" experience in SNUH or Severance at the time of publication.
There were about 50 cases of hepatic lobectomy reported world wide and it was 4 years before Min BC did his first hepatic lobectomy in SNUH, luckily publicized well for him. More importantly, 장기려 ,s group reported ,in a separate paper, analysis of hepatobiliary anatomy in Koreans based on autopsy of 350-400 Korean patients(I don't have the paper in front of me) before they were embarking on the right hepatic lobectomy.
More than 350 autopsies in 1959 Korea! Hardly imaginable!

I have mixed feeling on Prof. 이영균, a remarkable gentleman who had very balanced view and capacity in various aspects of life,
and belongs to the group of sincere surgeons of the generation. When he was sent to U.of Minnesota,the Mecca of heart surgery in late 1950's with the mission to start the heart surgery program of SNUH. He was a youngster who probably never seen the heart inside or maybe very few outside of a heart in the operating suite. He observed Walton Lillihei,the pioneer of open heart surgery for 1 year ,may be slightly longer , and came back. Young American surgeon ,George Schimert,,who just finished residency at Minnesota, came to Korea to help Prof. Lee YK. (I read a Ph.D. Dissertation on the Minnesota Project from this SNU medical history Dep't.) to start the first heart surgery SNU.
Those were the days.
University of Minn.the premier institution had mortality of 10-20% in heart surgery, those days.
In early 1950s ,이영균 was designated as the future neurosurgeon of SNUH for a number of years.

When he came back, did he feel in his heart , that he and SNUH Team were ready to tackle on VSD repair or Tetralogy of Fallot repair? I don't know. I doubt it.

I just do not have the answer or power to make such judgement.

I do agree with 운영자 선배님, in that many of them wasted their time and energy in political internal fighting, not enough efforts to improve themselves clinically or academically under the glorious blanket of SNU.

I recently heard from a classmate of mine who retired from long tenure in a university that One of our teachers,who passed away since, confided to him, his beloved disciple before his death. "Many/most of SNUH staffs,good and smart professors , were either kidnapped or voluntarily went to North(월북)before or during the Korean War.(백인제,이재복, 김봉한....) ,or kicked out or left after the war.

When I used the term " 압축 성장" in Korean society in previous writing and mentioned about my observation of some area reaching world top class, some area still in primitive stage, well recognized in other fields,....it includes the medical field as well.

I just hope any graduates of SNU MC, inside SNU community as well as outside community, understand,admit this truth in this 21 century Korean medical scene, and guide younger generation not to repeat mistakes made by old guys during the by-gone era of SNUH,looks back on themselves on and off,improve themselves,in this world of stiff competition, nationally and internationally.


  No. 11


Dear Dr.


Wow, What an elephant memory no one can beat!

I feel like I am back in 1960 era with such vivid description of many SNUH professors!

I am glad we all are still able to retrieve those from deep down in the memories before we would forget sooner or later! Indeed, good and fair summary to conclude the reminiscence of our young days through SNUH we all share; It is truly remarkable to figure out many had same critical view on bygone era of SNUH.


Although some would get offended with such candid opinions we exchanged through the week, we all learn more through proper digestion of the mistakes/mishaps we went through and indeed, on that sense, this blog/communication gave me an unexpected dividend to identify where I am standing along SNUH to show to my former colleagues/friends.


Hope you have had a good time in Ireland.   

BB Lee-'63

P.S. I vaguely recall such confusing saga of many brilliant faculties involved to 월북/kidnap, etc like  백인제, 이재복, 김봉한 along the Korean War, I heard during the residency days. But no one gave a full picture though I tried hard. Wish someone who has more knowledge to share with us! 



  No. 12


As Dr. Choh wished, I will no more tease my old school. Whatever it was, it is still my school after all.
As you may know, the school is like our mothers. We get to be born again there.

"Although some would get offended with such candid opinions we exchanged through the week, we all learn more through..."

물론이지요. Thank you very much for your having said that.
"서양문명의 핵심은 candid opinion과 그걸 존경하는 태도, 그리고 그 의견과 자기의견을 Discuss하는 자세" 입니다.
그렇게 할때 우리가 중세기 암흑시대를 벗어나 계속 진보할수 있는것이지요 !!
불행히도 우리 한국에서는 공자 맹자 doctrine 하에 candid opinion은 죄악으로 취급하지요.
특히 그것이 젊은 사람들의 입으로 부터 나왔다면 죽일놈이 되는거지요.
모든 선배나 교수, 높은 사람이 하는짓은 "쉬,쉬", "그냥놔둬", "가만있어", 떠들지 마", "모른척 해" 하면서 덮어두는것이지요.
한국은 아직도 이런 버릇, 습관이 다분히 있지요. 우리 뼈에 박힌 사고방식입니다.
우리는 지금 21세기에 아직도 유고사상 세뇌 암흑시대에서 헤메고 있지요.
이런것이 우리 한국의 사회, 문화, 정신적 발전에 지대한 방해가 되어 온 것입니다.

본인은, 선배 후배를 가리지 않고, 우리 website이 이런 솔직한 의견의 교환장소로 되기를 바라며 그렇게 운영할려 애씁니다.
우리 website은 봉건주의적 Korean website이 아니고, 자유로운 서양식 website이라는것을 알어주시기 바랍니다.


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