While James Kim, MD, did not originally begin medical school with a plan to become a hospitalist, he has embraced his current role wholeheartedly.
Since becoming board certified in both internal medicine and infectious diseases, Dr. Kim has welcomed the opportunity to be part of hospital medicine, which gives him the opportunity to pursue his other passion: teaching and mentoring.
As an assistant professor of medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, Dr. Kim has tried to emulate his own mentors by not simply distributing factual information to students but also by teaching ways of thinking.
“It’s not just what you know but how you convey what you know to other people,” said Dr. Kim. “While you might get useful information from a didactic teaching style, it’s important to ask questions to encourage the learner to think about not only what the right answer is but also what’s the thought process required to get the answer.”
As one of the newest additions to the editorial advisory board of The Hospitalist, Dr. Kim took time to tell us more about himself in a recent interview.
QUESTION: How did you find your career path in medicine?
ANSWER: I originally went into medical school thinking I was going to do pediatrics, but then I realized that I really enjoy talking to people and that I like the process of thinking through diagnoses, managing patients, and learning about what makes their circumstances unique.
Q: How did you get into hospital medicine?
A: When I finished my internal medicine residency, I thought I was going to do medical missions. However, I realized along the way that the care you need to provide in order to really make a difference in other countries requires a constant presence there – not just a week or two. So after my fellowship, I was searching for jobs and found a hospitalist position at the University of California, Los Angeles. When I saw it, I thought ‘Wow, I really miss doing inpatient medicine.’
Q: Since you started, what have been some of your favorite parts of hospital medicine?
A: When people come to you in the hospital setting, they are usually pretty sick. It is very satisfying when, through the course of a person’s hospital stay, we are able to come up with a plan that can get them acutely better.
Q: What do you think is the hardest part of hospital medicine?
A: I think one of the things that is most frustrating is when we are placed into a situation in which we are not necessarily doing medical work for a patient but are doing something more like social work. For instance, there are cases in which patients can not be on their own in the community, and there’s no family to take them in, so the hospital, on behalf of the state, has to take them in.
Q: What else do you do outside of hospitalist work?
A: Since I’ve finished medical school, I’ve always been in some kind of academia, which is not something I would have expected. But as time has gone by, I have really come to appreciate being in academia. I really enjoy teaching, and I also think that an academic institution kind of keeps me on my toes. I’m involved with interprofessional education at Emory, with teaching medical students, interns, and residents when I’m on teaching service, and obviously now I’m on The Hospitalist editorial board. I’m looking forward to keeping abreast of what’s hot in the world of hospital medicine.
Q: What are you excited about bringing to The Hospitalist editorial board?
A: I want to try to contribute ideas. I feel that even in my short time at Emory, I’ve gotten to know a few people who might be good resources for reporters to interview or even who might write articles themselves. I also think that seeing what is trending in the world of hospital medicine is a nice way of understanding the future direction of hospital medicine.
Q: What have you seen as being the biggest change in hospital medicine since you started?
A: I feel as though I’ve kept my head down and plowed forward through the first part of my career, but I think that, more than anything else, what I’ve noticed is bigger shifts within health care itself. I know that there’s a lot of consolidation going on. I think that there are many questions that are going to come up about how do we manage a health care system as complicated as America’s and how do we deliver optimal care to people especially when sometimes we end up in situations in which we don’t have all the resources that we would want to have because of circumstances.
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