PEOPLE [AMC&I] Creating and cultivating a desirable environment 2023.05.31

Professor Sun Uck Kwon, Department of Neurology


▲[Left] With scholars attending the 'Asan-Harvard International Symposium' in 1997. Professor Sun Uck Kwon is on the left side of the back row. / [Right] Professor Sun Uck Kwon delivering a lecture at the Stroke Symposium in 2007.


Professor Sun Uck Kwon has undergone a virtuous cycle of development through various experiences. In a liberal research environment established by previous researchers, he has experienced rapid growth in line with the new challenges of Asan Medical Center. He has long been dedicated to building systems for the Human Research Protection Center and stroke treatment. Now, he is contemplating his role for the next generation.


Is there a particular reason for your decision to join AMC?

I joined AMC in 1997 after completing my residency at Seoul National University Hospital. While I had several options available to me, I was eager to learn from Professor Jong Sung Kim, a recognized authority on stroke. Professor Kim supported my independent research on topics I was passionate about. When my clinical research was published in ‘Stroke’ and gained attention in Southeast Asia, it led to a more extensive follow-up study. I was genuinely grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with foreign scholars as an independent researcher at the age of forty. Naturally, I decided to create a similar research environment for the next generation. In fact, as we encounter patients with similar diseases, we cannot help but think of similar research topics. Allocating roles and achieving synergy are definite factors for the department and hospital's development.


Can you share your most memorable moment of growth?

Upon joining Asan Medical Center, I took charge of preparing the Asan-Harvard International Symposium. During the preparation process, I gained insight into hospital administration and had the opportunity to interact with individuals from different departments. I particularly remember meeting and conversing with the former President of AMC, Professor Pyung Chul Min. It's not common for new staff members to engage in conversations with the hospital president, right? (Laughs) By personally inviting and meeting renowned scholars from overseas whom I had previously known only by name, our working relationship on research began. Witnessing the presence of AMC firsthand served as a motivating factor for me to work with enthusiasm.


What were the key aspects you focused on during your tenure as the Director of the Human Research Protection Center?

Around 2010, Asan Medical Center was preparing to establish a protection center for clinical trial subjects. It was a time when I actively conducted clinical research and gained awareness of relevant administrative and organizational management. I also visited the United States to review various clinical research and ethical systems. Looking back, AMC's decision to open the center in 2012 to ensure clinical research ethics was quite pioneering at that time.

When I assumed the role of Director of the Subject Protection Center, I renamed it the Human Research Protection Center. Protecting the rights and interests of patients participating in clinical research was crucial. However, it was equally important to ensure that researchers could conduct research fairly and be protected from harm due to a lack of knowledge regarding relevant regulations. The change in name implies that the protection of researchers is also significant. When I was solely focused on research, I used to complain, 'Why all this unnecessary stuff?' (Laughs) However, as I gained a comprehensive understanding of the entire research process, I realized that research lacking fairness according to ethical guidelines would not be accepted by the academic community. Even though it may be bothersome at times, early correction improves the quality of the research itself. Now, with numerous requests made to the Center for clinical research review, I believe there are hardly any immature researchers like myself. Ha-ha.


▲[Left] With the medical staff of the Department of Neurology in 2008. Professor Sun Uck Kwon is the second person from the right in the bottom row. / [Right] Taking a commemorative photo with junior colleagues during 2015 AMC Stroke Center Alumni Workshop. Professor Sun Uck Kwon is in the center.


What changes have occurred in stroke treatment over the years?

In the 2010s, there was a significant shift in the stroke treatment paradigm as the effectiveness and safety of technology directly removing thrombus in acute stroke cases were proven. It was demonstrated that the sooner a patient arrived at a stroke center after the onset of symptoms, where thrombectomy could be performed, the better the prognosis. The significance of a systematic diagnosis and treatment system was established as well. Hospitals needed to take a step forward, emphasizing multidisciplinary collaboration and the availability of professional human resources to provide immediate treatment. Asan Medical Center established the Stroke Center with a collaborative system that engaged various departments, including neurology, neurosurgery, radiology, emergency medicine, and cardiology. We began actively promoting this initiative in cooperation with the 119 Rescue Center of Korea. However, soon after, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, preventing patients from being admitted to emergency rooms. It was a challenging time, but with the cooperation of the Department of Emergency Medicine, we started accepting potentially treatable patients on weekends when the bed occupancy rate was slightly lower. Although we faced difficulties, things are gradually improving, and it is time for us to gather our strength and move forward.


When did you feel most rewarded, and what are the future challenges?

I felt an immense sense of fulfillment when the findings from our hard-earned clinical trials were incorporated into the standard clinical procedures in the United States. Through our research, I witnessed the actual transformation of treatment practices. Currently, we are actively collaborating with the Division of Cardiology as many stroke patients suffer from concomitant heart disease. We are continuously expanding our ability to provide more comprehensive care to stroke patients. Moving forward, my goal is to find my role in building a more robust stroke treatment system that encompasses research, training, and surgical procedures.