I Am KoreAm: Peter Rhee

Describe your background briefly (where did you grow up, etc.).
I was born in Seoul and my family of five immigrated to Uganda in East Africa when I was 5 years old. I came to the United States when I was 9. My father was trained surgeon in Korea but had to repeat his entire training when we came to the United States. A family of five living on an interns’ salary in New Jersey may not have been easy for my parents, but I don’t remember wishing for much as a child as my childhood was an adventure.

I eventually went to high school at a small coal mining community in Western Pennsylvania. I went to college at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia which was a different experience by any stretch of the imagination. I joined the Navy and became a Navy trauma surgeon and retired after 24 years in 2007. Now I work as chief of emergency surgery at the University of Arizona in Tucson and also have the job of being the chief Trauma Surgeon.


Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My father was a sweet man who live adventures and endured hardships. He had a hard life and his life ended 3 months after he retired. He never pushed me to be a doctor but he was influential as he was a survivor and never missed a day of work, ever!

Tell us about a unique or quirky habit of yours.
Military habit of dipping tobacco.

If you had to describe yourself using three words, they would be…
Passionate, motivating, sacrificing.

How would you describe your style in clothing?

If you knew you couldn’t fail, and money was no object, what would you like to do in the next five years?
Invent all the medical gadgets we need. Simple stuff, can’t believe no one has thought of it. We could make a ton of money and help a lot of people doing it. All good stuff.


What words do you live by?
Don’t pass up any opportunities and the only thing predictable about the future is that it is unpredictable.

If someone made a movie of your life, what genre would it be?

When people look at me, they would never guess that I…
Would be well known or popular.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
OMG I’m late!

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