Professor Ducksun Ahn: “Medical education is all about how to make good doctors through education in a continuum. Because medicine is continually changing and something new is coming, you have to keep studying. Medical education starts from undergraduate studies and lasts a lifetime,”
Professor Ducksun Ahn, recently designated as the winner of the Korea Medical Association-Pfizer International Cooperation Achievement Award, is a renowned physician, researcher, plastic surgeon, bioethics expert, and a pioneer of medical education in Korea.
Ahn is most known for implementing a systematic approach to medical education and accreditation in a country that lacked such a system following the Korean War. In an interview with the Korea Biomedical Review Friday, Ahn recalled that when he was a student in the 1970s, Korea was under political turmoil led by a leader who used force to govern.
“The military government forced medical schools to close down every year, several times and in unpredictable ways. So I come from a generation that did not have a proper undergraduate medical education. We skipped many courses because we took part in anti-dictatorship demonstrations,” Ahn said.
It was paradoxically from this lack of proper undergraduate education that Ahn felt a need for change.
“I didn’t like the education system when I did my internship. Interns did simple chores - just simple labor - with no education. It was too hierarchical and very violent,” Ahn said. “The whole society then was kind of violent because of the postwar traumatic syndrome. That’s why I wanted to change it.”
He applied to the University of Toronto in Canada to complete his residency in the department of plastic surgery. And it was at the university that Ahn met his mentor, Professor Arnis Freiberg, who taught him how teachers should behave. The mentor, according to Ahn, was awarded by the student body as the teacher of the year for 14 consecutive years and the first person in North America to become a professor at the department based purely on his educational accomplishments.