Army Specialist Fulfills Dream of Becoming an Army Medical Officer

by Mr. William Wight
U.S. Army

The late Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

For Ki Suk (Peter) Eum that dream was to become a medical officer in the United States Army.

Last week, the 29-year old Army Specialist finally reached his goal when he was discharged from the active Army and commissioned into the U.S. Army Reserves as a medical corps officer.

"Achieving new heights is nothing new for Eum," said Col. Wendy Harter, Commander of the 65th Medical Brigade. "He has excelled at everything life has put in his path. We are proud to see him seizing this opportunity and volunteering to serve now again as a medical corps officer."

At the age of 16, Eum left his hometown of Seoul, South Korea as part of a high school student exchange program. Upon graduation he entered the University of Wisconsin-Madison earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology.

"I aspired to be a doctor early in my life," Eum said. "While in college my biology professor inspired me to make my dream a reality, so I went on to earn my doctorate of Osteopathic Medicine at Kansas City University."

One hurdle facing Eum and his dream of serving as a medical officer in the U.S. military was his citizenship.

"All Korean male citizens have a military obligation and I was approaching that age limit on my student visa passport," Eum explained. "As a student studying abroad, I had to make a decision whether to join the U.S. Army or go back to Korea and start a new life. One of the biggest reasons for me to join the Army was to set a solid ground for my future family to grow. I think immigration through the military is the most honorable way to become a part of a society, so I began to look at the possibilities of becoming a medical officer."

With his dreams driving him, Eum set out to find an Army Medical Department (AMEDD) recruiter that would "accept his unique case." Very few international students actually get accepted to a U.S. medical school and Eum found out quickly that the guidelines for AMEDD was to accept someone who already finished their residency.

"I pushed on and took the advice of three recruiters who informed me that once I enlisted and then became a U.S. citizen, the process to switch to the officer corps would be easy," said Eum. "I am grateful they saw my potential and gave me a chance to enlist."

Eum enlisted and was assigned to the 65th Medical Brigade in 2015 as a patient administration specialist.

In September last year he was naturalized as a U.S. citizen.

This past March, he was accepted to the Tripler Army Medical Center internal medicine program.

After a waiver was granted by the Human Resources Command, he was discharged from Active Duty as a Specialist and placed into the Individual Ready Reserves, only to be officially approved and commissioned into the United States Army Reserves through the STRAP (Specialized Training Assistance Program for medical corps officers) program to the rank of Captain.

"I took a calculated risk and everything worked out because of all the help from the leaders of the Army. I learned a lot as a junior soldier over the past year. I look at things in a different perspective and I am able to appreciate other people's hard work," Eum said. "I feel honored to be part of the U.S. Army. Now I understand the hardships of junior enlisted Soldiers and with this understanding, I know what it takes to be a good leader."

Eum departs Korea and heads to Hawaii for the Army Medical Department Officer Basic Course June 29 and upon completion will begin his residency in internal medicine at Tripler Army Medical Center while serving with the U.S. Army Reserves.

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