Dr. Jae Ho Shim walked the halls of Martin Army Community Hospital as an enlisted man a little over a week ago. But as of Jan. 18, he is an Army officer wearing silver captain’s bars.
“I’m very excited,” Shim said of his commissioning at a ceremony in a Martin Army Community Hospital conference room. “I’ve not heard of any case like this. It has been a long process and I am glad it finally happened.”
Commissioning an Army specialist is a rare occurrence. Although it happens more often among the nurse ranks, it’s practically unheard of for medical corps physicians.
“Impossible, unlikely and unprecedented are the words that that describe Jae’s journey,” said Lt. Col. Mark Higdon, director of residency training for the MACH Family Medicine Residency Program. Higdon administered the oath that marked Shim’s transition from the rank of specialist to captain.
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Shim, a native of South Korea, moved to the United States when he was 13. He attended Ross University School of Medicine in the Caribbean and did his clinical rotations in New York and New Jersey hospitals. Shim then enlisted in the Army as a medic, attracted by benefits and student loan repayment. He served in a cavalry line unit at Fort Drum, N.Y., before he began exploring other options.
His enlisted time is something which Shim said he is grateful. “The experience as a line-unit medic is something most doctors don’t get,” Shim said. “I’m glad I had that opportunity.”
It was a lieutenant who first discovered Shim’s education and desires to practice medicine. That information was brought forward and Higdon said he had his first conversation with Shim about two years ago. After a review of his qualifications and an interview, he was approved for the Family Medicine residency program at MACH. Higdon said the process to commission Shim involved many people and the goodwill of Army leadership. “I’m excited to be a part of it,” Higdon said.
For Shim, performing residency duties as a specialist sometimes caused some confusion. “There were some awkward moments, but no one ever gave me a hard time” Shim said. “Everyone knew my situation. Sometimes I belonged here. Sometimes I belonged there.” While there was no defined path for this particular transition, Higdon said Shim was a good candidate to blaze the trail.
“Shim is very professional and sets a good example,” Higdon said.
“We need primary care physicians and here is a Soldier medic and physician. It’s win-win.”As a recruiter for the Columbus Medical Recruiting Station, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Pearson said the experience of bringing Shim into the officer ranks was unprecedented.
“It was an unusual situation and one we can learn from,” he said. “In the end, it worked well for the Soldier and the Army.”