Monday, June 18, 2012

Student Innovators: Introducing Larry Kim

As part of the institute’s commitment to education, each year we host a class of Student Innovators who spend the summer working side by side with our investigators. Throughout the summer, Larry will provide commentary about the experiences of the Student Innovators. Here's his first post. 

By Larry Kim

Brief bio

Larry's first view of the Children's
National main atrium when he
arrived as a Student Innovator.
My name is Larry Kim and I am a 23 year old student innovator at the Summer Student Innovators Program at the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation at Children's National in Washington, DC. I received my Bachelor's of Science in Health Sciences with a concentration in Public Health Education from James Madison University in 2010. I will be receiving my Master of Public Health degree in Public Health Policy and Practice from the University of Virginia in August of 2012. As an academic in the field of public health and a frequent patient of the health care system, I will share my own patient-first perspective of my experiences here at the 2012 Summer Student Innovators Program.

What exactly is innovation?
What is innovation? What does innovation mean? Innovation is a term that can take on many meanings. At the Sheikh Zayed Institute, innovation means a future in which pediatric surgery is more precise, less invasive, and pain free. For me, innovation takes on a slightly different meaning. As a patient who has been hospitalized over 15 times in the past 5 years, innovation represents a pillar of hope. Hope that one day there will be a cure for juvenile diabetes; a disease I have lived with since 2006.

At the age of 17, I was involuntarily thrust into the realm of healthcare. In 2006, just a week before the start of my freshman semester at James Madison University, I collapsed in my home and was admitted to a local hospital. Once there, I was diagnosed with acute liver failure stemming from a severe allergic reaction to medication. I was flown by helicopter to a hospital specializing in liver transplantation, where I remained in intensive care awaiting a new liver to arrive. Doctors informed my parents that without a new liver, my chances of survival were slim. After spending close to a month in intensive care, a miracle happened; my liver began to heal itself. I spent the next few months rehabilitating, developing type 1 diabetes in the process, and moving in and out of hospitals, countless times, as I faced complications. My experience as a patient in the healthcare system has been less than ideal. But it has only been through these experiences have I developed a passion for change, a passion for innovation, and a sense of hope that the world will one day be free of diabetes.

At the Summer Student Innovators Program we all share a common passion: a passion for change. Although we may have different ideas and perceptions of the word "innovation," our belief in a better tomorrow unites us. The 14 student innovators come from different occupations and backgrounds. Some of us have medical or clinical degrees, while others have advanced degrees in business or public policy.. Some have traveled from as far away as Nova Scotia and the United Arab Emirates to participate in the program. What I have learned here is that innovation cannot be summarized by a single phrase or definition. Instead, innovation is a shared belief that the present state of healthcare is simply not good enough. We all believe that change is possible. And it is this belief that brings us together. If we can come together and truly believe in this change, than there will always be hope for a better and brighter tomorrow.

Larry Kim
2012 Student Innovator, Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation 
University of Virginia MPH 2012, James Madison University BS 2010