What was your motivation for attending a medical school? Why did you decide to become a physician? What are particularly difficult or memorable incidents you recall in your career as a physician?
When I encountered people with leprosy or disabilities as a child, I felt more sadness than fear. I had this vague thought that I would someday like to help heal those suffering from illnesses and isolation from society. During my teen years in high school, I was stronger in math and sciences fields, which led me to medical school.
Looking back, every single moment of my academic career has helped me to become a better health management professional through meaningful challenges, including studying laboratory medicine, preventive medicine and biotechnology in medical school. These experiences built a strong foundation for me as a consummate physician seeking new medical technologies and ways to treat patients effectively.
The difficulties I had encountered as a physician included a low level of accessibility to preventive medical technology and the underdeveloped environment only consist of evidence-based medical treatment system. What I realized then was the importance of early detection and diagnosis before people became seriously ill. Ensuring the health of an individual through medical prophylaxis before one becomes a patient is as critical, if not more than saving one’s life. Indeed, a noble mission of medical professionals lies in ceaseless research and exploration dedicated not only for curing sickness, but also maintaining and promoting health of a population.
You’ve had a significant role in developing and expanding one of the Korea’s most renowned medical examination centers and establishing a developer for diagnostic reagents and testing laboratories. As a visionary in the global medical field, you have successfully built and managed a Korean-style comprehensive medical examination center in Hangzhou, China and a medical center in Mongolia. What are your business philosophies and strategies?
Korea is already a medically advanced nation of which medical technology and services are internationally recognized and revered. However, the reality for a patient in Korea is such that finding a trustworthy hospital for him or her to rely on among many seemingly capable physicians and hospitals is rather difficult. As a result, patients tend to engage in “medical shopping” and seek only large and well-branched hospitals. This has at times caused societal problems with increased medical cost and undermining balanced development of regions.
Due to this current medical reality in Korea, it is hard for physicians to realize their vocational mission and contribute to making a healthier and happier society. The basis of my business philosophy comes foremost from the love I have for my family and the society. As a health care professional, I work hard to seek new technological progress and to advance evidence-based preventive medicine.
Additionally, all of my education from middle school to university completed at mission schools naturally instilled in me a strong sense of faith and spirituality, sharing and responsibility for taking actions. This is much relevant to my business philosophy of serving and having consideration for others.
Seoul Clinical Laboratories Health Care, Inc. celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, which meant a lot to me. Our new motto is ‘health keeper of humanity through evidence-based medicine.’ In the last 30 years, we have been recognized and trusted in the field of preventive medicine through evidence-based medicine. With that knowledge and trust, we will continue our effort in sharing our medical technology not only in Korea but also globally with countries, such as China, Mongolia, and CIS region.
You have made an impressive transition from an influential physician to a successful CEO. As a physician and a CEO, what are your future aspirations and plans?
The dual position I have is neither complicated nor simple when I consider my future plans and aspirations. It all begins at a common place of dealing with people; furthermore, managing life and death situations requires me as a CEO to seriously contemplate the sanctity of life and human diseases before profit and materialism. Hence, my employees and I are trying our best in order to serve and care for the human health and welfare.
Although it had taken 30 years to properly accept evidence-based medical assessment and preventive medicine in Korea’s domestic diagnostic testing, its value in relevant medical fields was not fully recognized at the time. However, our hard work along with advancement in medical technology has enabled SCL Health Care Group to succeed. As we continue to contribute to the betterment of global health, it is my wish to see SCL thrive as one of the world’s premier bio-medical institutions.
You were selected as one of the world’s most influential 500 leaders by the renowned American Biographical Institute (ABI) in the United States because your achievements as a physician and a CEO were well recognized. What would be your advice to medical students and aspiring physicians?
I was much grateful and humbled to receive the award news from ABI in 2008, which was very meaningful to me as an individual and also physician. It was an assurance for the transition I made from a physician to a CEO in order to develop a medical system for diagnostic testing based on continuous diagnostic research on hepatocarcinogen I had worked on as a professor at Yonsei University.
There are important corporate responsibilities for our management charter. A corporation must be mindful of the needs of patients and their families, and also those of the medical and research team who will use our diagnostic test results. The goal of the corporation we lead should be to help process accurate and rapid testing for correct diagnosis that allows patients to receive effective treatment for fast recovery and health promotion.
Medicine is a profession that deals with human body, more critically of life and death. This requires a careful observation of patents’ pain and respect for the sanctity of life. Physicians and medical professionals should never forget these principles.
You have contributed to WKMO, which you currently serve as Executive Vice President. What do you envision for WKMO and its roles?
I recently read a medical column which was about how Stanford Medical School teaches students from around the world to become outstanding medial leaders. The column discussed how Stanford provides high-quality early education systems for pre-med students and medical training programs that allow self-growth opportunities. I especially was envious of their simulation center, funded by donations, where students can actually experience clinical trials, patient surgery and emergency response based on scientific scenarios. It’s not hard to imagine that Stanford Medical School’s innovative programs reinforce early development of academic capabilities in students to become potentially prominent physicians.
Since its foundation, WKMO has become a central organization to help bring together Korean physicians from all around the world. One of WKMO’s core functions has been to promote a mentoring program for Korean medical students so that they can become dedicated physicians who will contribute to their society. It has helped establish a solid basis among Korean health care professionals around the world to strengthen their Korean heritage and identity. I truly believe that through continuous progress, WKMO’s systematic programs and projects will create brilliant global Korean physicians leading the way in eradicating diseases and maintaining health of people everywhere.
I hope to see WKMO bring more and more participants and generous support of the global medical communities through consistent development of WKMO’s brand value.
Readers of the World Korean Medical Journal are leaders of health and medical care service industry in more than 10 different countries. As an entrepreneur and senior executive of WKMO, what would you like to share with us?
We first entered Mongolia in 2002, and 10 years later, Hanaro Medical Foundation has established and run successfully a Korean-style medical examination center in Hangzhou, Zhejjang Provice in Eastern China. The big plan now is to work with our local partners in China to set up similar health examination facilities in every province in China within 20 years.
30 years ago when the “Seoul Medical Science Institute” was founded, there was no substantive revenue-generating model for the institute given national income in Korea remained very low. The general public was not ready to spend expenses related to preventive medicine practice and examination services. Nonetheless, I am convinced that it was the right choice to make at the time. I feel a great sense of pride as a health service executive to see the medical world advancing toward more preventive medicine and care and being recognized for its benefits.
Korea’s health medical examination model is very unique and superior system, which developed nations have not yet produced themselves. It is a future-oriented business that provides health care services to healthy people, not patients; it also encourages innovation and development of new subsidiaries in a wide range of areas, including pharmaceutical industry, nurturing medical and health care education, and other related products and systems. Therefore, I hope to further collaborate with WKMO to strengthen cooperation and penetrate the global market to share Korea’s excellent health examination business and medical systems.
I would like to close by wishing all of WKMO members, Korean medical professionals around the world and their families much happiness and blessings. Thank you.
Dr. Kyoung-Ryul Lee, Chairman of Hanaro Medical Foundation
In 1991, Dr. Lee graduated with his MA degree from Yonsei University Graduate School of Medicine. 6 years later in 1997, he successfully achieved his PhD from Yonsei University Graduate School of Medicine. Then, he worked as a Research Associate in the Scripps Research Institute, Department of Molecular & Experimental Medicine for two years. Dr. Lee became the Chairman of BioCore in 2002, adjunctive associate professor in Department of Laboratory Medicine, Yonsei University in 2003, branch president of Korea Federation of AIDS Prevention Seoul in 2005 and Committee Member of Drug Resource Center in 2006. Also, in 2008, he took several important steps in his career which include being inaugurated as the 2nd Chairman, becoming adjunct professor in Department of Laboratory Medicine, Yonsei University, and executive Director of Health and Welfare Division Yonsei University Alumni Association. Further, Dr. Lee worked as a Senior Vice-President of the Korean World Society and was awarded for “Underprivileged Welfare Achievement Award” from Mayor of Seoul, Korea. Currently, Dr. Lee is the Chairman of Hanaro Medical Foundation, the Vice President of Yonsei University of Medicine Alumni Association and the Deputy of Clinical Laboratory management Association of Korea since 2013, the year when he also received Appreciation Plaque from Global Health and Welfare.