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Dean's Message

The Essence of Medicine and Doctor

We are going through the era of the fourth industrial revolution and Covid-19 pandemic, where the upheaval of human history and unprecedented disastrous situation coexist. In this time of upheaval, the meaning of human existence is being overshadowed by machine civilization, and people are being isolated since the Covid-19 is taking the health and daily life from us. Many experts have positive future prospects, saying our future will be technotopia society dominated by hyper-connectivity, AI, robotics and big data, however, we must concern the shadows of machine civilization. The problems of technotopia will not be simply limited to the matter of human losing their job. In the world where machinery replace, judge, and even control the human, the meaning of human existence might be questioned. Moreover, pandemic like Covid-19 is encouraging the society where massive system monitors and controls each and everyones life to arrive. In medical field, human doctors imperfectness might seem poor compare to machinery or AI doctors in near future.

Now the School of Medicine, since it takes responsibility for medical education and doctor training, should focus more on the essential question: What is the essence of Medicine and what is the mission of doctor? If we presume knowledge of disease and discovery of treatment is the essence of the Medicine, and if we presume health promotion and life extension is the mission of doctor, now its the age that AI and robot system can show better performance in medical field as a doctor. Then what is the true essence of the Medicine? I believe the essence of Medicine is knowledge of human, not of disease. To be specific, its an understanding of human who live with the pain and agony of disease. Also, what is the mission of doctor? It is to be a last bastion of human dignity, not simply treating the illness and extending life. Recent flow of many internal and external schools of Medicine starting humanities education reflects the insight and spirit of the times and therefore Im glad though its late. However if the humanities education of the school of Medicine simply lead to the accumulation of knowledge, then we will commit an error of creating another monster.

Choi Yeon Ho, the former dean stated that our school should be a school teaching the basics. I believe that basics are understanding of human and protecting human dignity. Our school will do our best to train doctors who can truly understand the people isolated in technotopia, and try to protect their dignity till the end, rather than just skilled and noted doctors.

“Wish your life and home peaceful and blessed this year. .”

January 1, 2022. Lee Joo Heung, MD PhD
Dean, School of Medicine
Sungkyunkwan University