Eugene Jang: Parents Resisted the Idea of Medical School

Right after Eugene Jang graduated from college, his maternal grandparents died within months of each other. “It was the first time I was really exposed to hospitals and doctors,” he says. “I was taken aback by how much difference a caring physician, or even a medical student, can have on patients and their families.”

At that point, he had no inkling that he would pursue medicine; he had studied mechanical engineering at MIT. No one in his family was a doctor. In fact, his family was resistant to the idea. “From our perspective as patients, we didn’t see doctors as being that helpful,” the Queens native says. “My parents are both Korean immigrants and are from a medically underserved community, so we have had a lot of struggles with the health care system. This was a major reason why I went into medicine.”

Before coming to P&S, Dr. Jang worked as a research assistant at CUMC with Melvin Rosenwasser, MD, in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery. The experience would influence his decisions not only on where to study and what to focus on, but also on how to practice medicine. “He is a model for the kind of doctor I want to be,” Dr. Jang says of Dr. Rosenwasser. “He’s great in the operating room and wonderful at building a rapport with patients. He went to medical school at P&S, too. I’m fortunate to have gotten into Columbia, where I hope to follow in his footsteps.” He matched to an orthopedic surgery residency at Columbia.

At CUMC, Dr. Jang drew on his background in engineering to study orthopedic surgery—the juncture of mechanics and medicine. He hopes to pursue an academic career, where he can be involved in research, teaching, and administration, in addition to clinical practice.

Dr. Jang is president of the Class of 2015, a role he describes as a formative experience. “Having to balance the needs of a diverse student body and those of the administration was a constant challenge,” he says, “but I’m proud of what our class was able to accomplish in our time here. We were able to create a level of camaraderie that few get to experience in their professional education.”

“I try hard not to forget my roots,” he says. “What’s important to me in a residency program is how much they help underserved populations. I hope to be not just a good technical surgeon but also a caring, kind doctor.” As for his parents, they got over their initial skepticism about medicine. “They came around. Now I’m the go-to person in my family for all kinds of health questions.”