Inspiring Grad: Hyun Kim 

Student smiling in a stair case
Inspiring grad Hyun Kim. (Photos courtesy of Hyun Kim)

UIC senior Hyun Kim is excited for graduation day, not only because of the hard work he has put in these last four years but also because it puts him on a path to achieving his dream of helping others worldwide. 

Kim, who graduates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences on May 5, will attend medical school at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall.   He is also a member of the Honors College and was recently the keynote speaker at the Honors College Convocation.

“A really big dream of mine is to potentially be a global health provider and bring some of the techniques and some of the ways we provide health care in America to other countries,” Kim said.  “There’s a lot of work to do, but we still are doing pretty good compared to some of the other countries that are very under-resourced.”

While his dreams have evolved over the years, he said his desire to give back to the communities he’s lived in has only grown stronger because of his time at UIC.    

“UIC is really one of those universities where you are exposed to a variety of perspectives from not only your peers but your professors and not only the people in the school but the city,” Kim said. “I think we are in a very unique part of the city of Chicago to look at health disparities in communities.”

Kim said that studying alongside other students and learning from professors from different parts of Chicago and the world gave him valuable perspective. After immigrating from Korea as a young child, he settled with his family in Wilmette, which he called “homogenous.” But at UIC, he felt at home as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, or DACA, student.  

“I really think Chicago and UIC is a catalyst for broadened perspectives,” Kim said. “UIC is very special in that regard in both geography and the makeup of its students.”   

At UIC, he took advantage of the Guaranteed Professional Program Admissions Medical Scholars Program. Placement in the program is highly sought-after; it offers aspiring students a unique and accelerated pathway to a career in the medical field. The program puts selected students in frequent contact with faculty and advisors. Kim was paired with Dr. Rhonna Cohen in the College of Dentistry. He said Dr. Cohen helped him believe in his potential.    

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“Having that mentor really made sure that, as a first-generation and especially low-income student, you feel like you have someone who’s out there and can pave a path for you or at least give you pointers,” Kim said. “At UIC, they make you feel like you were meant to pursue something much greater than yourself or where you started from.”   

He also credited his other professors for being part of a network that guided him when he needed it. 

Among his greatest accomplishments at UIC, Kim said, was starting a student organization, Pick Up Lots of Litter, in 2022. The group walks around the city and picks up trash. It has garnered support from UIC’s Office of Sustainability.   

“It’s kind of a call to action and getting people aware that this is a problem, and it’s one way we can kind of address it,” Kim said. “It’s a low-barrier entry to getting involved with your community.”   

In medical school, Kim said he might focus on cardiology and possibly surgery because of the prevalence of heart disease in the communities he would like to serve.    

When he goes up to receive his diploma, Kim said, he will have more certainty about his life and future than he did when he received his high school diploma four years ago. At that time, he was an undocumented student and even took a year off after high school to earn legal residency.   

“There’s a lot of certainty that I have never felt before in my life, but it’s giving me a lot of determination and ambition for the next four years,” Kim said. “It’s a symbol of, ‘We’ve made it here so far, and nothing is going to stop us now.’”

Read about UIC’s other 2024 inspiring graduates.

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