I am so proud to introduce you guys to one of my best friends from medical school, Dr. Ji Son. I first met Ji at the UC Irvine medical school interview day, and then our paths crossed again on our Stanford Medical School interview day. We remembered each other, and I ended up taking her on a tour throughout the Stanford campus, including a walk through my dorm. We both ended up at Stanford Med, and bonded through our mutual love of Korean food and going out in the city. We ended up being roommates, living in a house in Palo Alto with three other of our best friends (whom I’ll hopefully feature for you guys in the near future!), and though she is now living in Cleveland, we still make every effort to keep in touch.
Name: Ji Son, MD
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
College: UC Irvine BS BA 2006
Medical School: Stanford MD 2013
Specialty: Plastic and reconstructive surgery
Residency Training Program: Case Western
What was your main motivation in becoming a doctor? When did you decide on this path?
I was an engineer prior to going into medicine. I majored in engineering because I enjoyed theoretical aspects of engineering. However in real life I often felt unsatisfied at Boeing because I was working only on a tiny fraction of an airplane. Therefore I sought a different career that has direct impact, and I thought medicine would be the perfect fit for me. Because I like to work with my hands, going into medical school I knew I was going to be a surgeon.
How did you decide on your particular specialty?
I chose plastic and reconstructive surgery because I think this is an extremely thoughtful and creative field! During free flaps I enjoy watching beautiful dissection of recipient vessels and I love the technically challenging aspects of harvesting a flap. The anatomy of the hand is beautiful, and I like that we have to be thoughtful about scars when raising flap. We have to think in 3 dimension! There is so much breadth in my specialty – cosmetics, reconstruction, hand / face transplants. I can go on and on about why I love my specialty…
Did you take any time off? If so, what did you do?
Yes, I took time off between college and medical school. I worked at various jobs – Boeing, NASA, modeling as well as received MS in biomedical engineering at UCLA
What activities did you do in college and medical school?
In college my activities scream “NERD.” I was an engineering nerd and I was very active in engineering societies and built radio-controlled airplanes. Also working was a big part of my college life – intern at The Boeing Company, Disneyland, tutor, model, engineering consultant at a law firm. My research in college consisted of astrophysics and presented at nerdy physics conferences.
[ Tea with MD comment: Guess which character Dr. Son played at Disneyland?! Hint: she’s 5’9″]
What is the best advice you can give to a college premed student? What about to a medical student?
Do what you enjoy, do what makes you happy. Don’t force yourself into a mold of what you think other people (i.e. medical schools) want. Then you will do well and things will fall in place.
Is there anything you would have done differently in your path to medicine?
While I wouldn’t trade my life experiences for anything and I took time off because I needed to take premedical courses and MCAT, I wish I was able to compress the time. I feel like in a way, being in medical school and residency is like being stuck in time.
How do you motivate yourself in this sometimes difficult field and prevent burnout?
I remind myself how I am extremely privileged to be able to operate on people and that I am lucky to have found a field that I am passionate about. However there are times I just want to lay on my living room in fetal position, and when I feel that way I do! Then I get up and get on with life. I’m probably going to start running too, to take advantage of endorphin that is released after a good workout.
What is it like being female in a male-dominated surgical specialty?
As a female resident I struggle with asserting my authority, and sometimes doubting capabilities. I really do think that having a female role model is helpful when dealing with such issues. It doesn’t have to be a mentor in the same field; my female mentor is a general surgeon.
Do you have any tips on maintaining work-life balance?
Oh wow, I really don’t. I am trying to be better about this – I recognize more and more as I get older how important work-life balance is.
What do you do in your spare time? Any hobbies?
Hanging out with friends, rocking out to music, watching TV, reading.
Thank you Dr. Son, for inspiring us all!