John Chae's Path to Leadership
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John Chae's Path to Leadership

John Chae, MD, ME serves as Vice President for Research at the MetroHealth System, and Professor and Chair of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at Case Western Reserve University. An AAP member since 1994, John is the Past President of the AAP’s Board of Trustees. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and has authored over 100 peer-reviewed publications and over 20 reviews, book chapters and books. He has been awarded 14 patents and is an Associate Editor for AJPM&R (the AAP's medical journal) and an Editor of the field’s premier text book, DeLisa’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Principles and Practice. Discover his path to leadership – in his words.

Born in Seoul, South Korea, I came to the U.S. in 1969 at the age of 8. Seoul was still recovering from the Korean War and I recall getting on the plane with great anticipation of going to “paradise” called “Migug,” or the United States of America. “Migug” literally means “beautiful country.” Our nation, indeed, is beautiful; however, its beauty rests not only in its physical characteristics, but more importantly, in its values – values that honor and respect the individual regardless of socioeconomic strata, race, culture, gender or religion, and popularity. Many of us pursued medicine because we wanted to serve our society. In fact, when we talk about “individualism” as a national value, we’re really talking about “altruistic individualism,” where we innovate, create and work to benefit our society.

I joined the AAP as a resident in 1994. My first Annual Meeting was in Albuquerque, New Mexico and it started a journey for me to become an academician with a charge to change the world. Over the years, I have found many mentors through the AAP who have helped me grow in academic leadership, research and education. Twenty-three years later, you passed your trust on to me to lead the AAP at the 2017 Annual Meeting in Las Vegas. Of all the appointments I’ve held over the years, I am most proud to follow in these footsteps of our specialty’s greatest minds, including Joel DeLisa, MD, who inspired my career path into physiatry.

I reflect often on our mission statement, “Creating the future of academic physiatry through mentorship, leadership, and discovery.” By mentorship, we mean more than just the transfer of data, skill, or even a trade. Mentorship is about personal transformation. While we most often think about the direction of this transformation from an established physiatrist to a trainee, in reality, this is bi-directional. Faculty has much to learn from our trainees so that we too are transformed. By leadership, we mean transformation beyond the academic department and even beyond the academic medical centers. In order to maximize the function and quality of life of persons with significant impairments and disabilities, society itself must be transformed. In transforming society, we need to link arms across our nation and across all nations so that our impact is global. Finally, by discovery, we mean more than the usual concepts associated with the word “research.” Yes, we need to contribute to evidence-based medicine by testing the validity of what we do today in practice. However, in discovery, there is a greater focus on innovation, where we are not bound by legacy or tradition, and we formulate and implement new and effective diagnostics and therapeutics.

We need each other to advance the cause of academic physiatry with the ultimate goal of serving our community and our global society. I look forward to working with you as we seek to change our world through mentorship, leadership and discovery in PM&R.