Sept. 18, 2020 — Just a few days before he walked across the stage to obtain his medical degree, Sey Park, M.D. ’16, pondered what advice he might have needed to hear as a budding first-year medical student.
“I would tell first-year Sey to make sure to have a balance and to ask for help,” Sey Park said. “There’s no shame in asking for help.”
Sey Park, who became a resident in the UF Department of Community Health and Family Medicine after graduating, was devoted to helping his peers navigate the pressures of medical school, centering wellness and resiliency practices to combat the exhausting hours spent in study halls and clinic.
When Sey Park unexpectedly passed away on Jan. 9, 2018, from a heart condition, his family established the Sey Park Memorial Fund for Resident and Student Education and Resiliency Outreach to continue the work Sey Park devoted himself to. The fund supports educational programs like workshops, guest speakers and research that promote well-being and highlight the importance of resilience among residents and medical students.
Hoon Park, Ph.D., a retired professor of finance at the University of Central Florida and father to Sey Park and his sister, Ki Park, M.D. ’06, has seen firsthand the tough demands made of medical professionals. In an effort to help the next generation of physicians face these challenges, he recently endowed the Sey Park Memorial Fund for Resident and Student Education and Resiliency Outreach, which will provide a permanent funding source for the initiative.
“Medical professionals can easily be worn out physically and even psychologically,” Hoon Park said. “Caring for patients requires much self-sacrifice, and if our physicians are not healthy, they cannot provide their best to their patients. With this fund, we can support those who may need assistance in maintaining their mental well-being and can help improve resiliency among trainees, so that they can successfully finish the program.”
During the second year of his residency, Sey Park investigated the topic of resiliency in medical students and residents. His study, “What are the Characteristics of Fourth-Year Medical Students with Higher Levels of Resilience?” was published posthumously by the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. Hoon Park said his son’s experiences during medical training, as well as those of his colleagues, inspired Sey Park to pursue research on professional burnout and advocate for the needs of students and residents.
“All of the UF medical students are the brightest bulbs in the state; Sey was valedictorian when he graduated high school,” Hoon Park said. “And yet, when he started medical school, he quickly recognized he and many of his friends experienced extreme stress and anxiety because of the pace and very demanding curriculum. This problem persisted even among his residency colleagues.”
During Sey Park’s last year of medical school in 2016, he initiated a public discussion that evolved into the annual “Stop the Silence” panel, which continues to provide a forum to openly examine the mental well-being and resiliency of medical students. Hoon Park said endowing the Sey Park Memorial Fund for Resident and Student Education and Resiliency Outreach ensures not only the improved wellness and resilience of the next generation of physicians, but also the fulfillment of his son’s wishes.
“Sey loved his alma mater so much that he wanted to be a Gator forever,” Hoon Park said. “Establishing his own endowed memorial fund makes it possible for him to be there in spirit for a long time, just as he wished.”