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Rare Conditions

A Conversation with Peter Kim, MD

Dr. KimPeter Kim, MD has worked as a Pediatric Neurosurgeon at Gillette Children's for nearly ten years.

Dr. Kim assumed the role of Associate Medical Director for Surgical Services at Gillette in 2021. Kim has been with Gillette since 2011 and has extensive expertise in treating Chiari malformation, epilepsy and seizures, tethered spinal cord, spina bifida, craniosynostosis, and hydrocephalus.

Learn more about him, here:

What initially brought you to Gillette?

I came to Gillette straight-out of my training about nine and a half years ago. I was done with my training and I wanted to be somewhere I could practice the full spectrum of pediatric neurosurgery.

I think when you go through your medical training, you’re just trying to do everything you can to hone your skills and learn everything that you need to learn to be able to provide the best possible care for your patients.

But when picking a place to continue my career, I think I was either wise enough or lucky enough to realize that your ability to do this has to be coupled with the right organization and people around you capable of following through on those goals. In that and many other ways, Gillette was very clearly the place for me.

How have you changed since you started working here?

As time has passed, I’ve come to appreciate more of the interpersonal aspects of working with my patients and their families. Again, in medical school, you’re learning about disease and how to treat it. Then you go through residency and it can feel like you’re in a constant state of trying to get everything right while putting out fires.

It’s not as though we don’t have fires to put out at Gillette, but as I’ve grown in my career, I’ve gotten better at the more subtle aspects of providing care for my patients. Not that long ago, I told a colleague from another institution that what I love so much about Gillette, is that there are times when I feel like I’m some of my patients’ primary doctor.

To be clear, I’m not. But with some of my patients who have a condition like spina bifida or complicated hydrocephalus, I know those patients incredibly well because they’ve seen me frequently.

I think all of my patients and their family members would prefer to see me less, as the hospital is rarely anyone’s favorite place to be. But for those who’ve needed my care through the years, I’ve really gotten to know them and their families. They, in turn, have gotten to know me.

I’ve known some patients who say, “Gillette, that’s where my doctor is,” not where their neurosurgeon is. That continuity and seeing my patients progress through childhood and into adulthood is one of the most gratifying aspects of my job.

What is your general approach when it comes to meeting a new patient and family?

Of course, every situation is different. But I think generally, I just try to approach things from the perspective of my patients and their families. To answer the questions I’d want answered and to hear the information I’d want to hear.

I try to understand that conversations that are routine for me aren’t routine for them, as well as remember that people react to similar things in very different ways.

But mostly, I just try to listen and watch how the people in the room are reacting and adjust my approach and direction of the conversation accordingly. As a more experienced surgeon as well as a more experienced parent, I can tell you that it’s not always perfect, but I think it’s something you get better at over time. 

Outside of work, how do you like to spend your time?

Primarily, with my family. I like being outside and exploring the world with my wife and kids. I enjoy classical music. But outside of work, I’m not sure there’s a thing that I’m very good at.

I’m not a champion skier or marathon runner by any means. I do like to run and ski, I’m just not that good at either of them.

As we begin 2021 after a long and difficult year, what are you most thankful for?

The distribution of the vaccine for COVID-19 is something that I’m thankful for. But I’m also thankful for the people who have been doing the right things during this time. For those who’ve gone out of their way not put others in harm’s way at the personal cost of not doing what they’d like to be doing.

We’ve seen the friction and different viewpoints that have arisen during this time, but we’ve also seen a lot of people doing very selfless things to help us get through this. That isn’t something we should forget. 

To close, what is an interesting fact about you?

I’d have to think about that, but I guess if there’s one thing: I got married in a laundromat.

My wife and I were traveling in Maine before we got married. It was a beautiful trip where we saw much of the state and the surrounding area, but at the end of a very long day, we stopped at a laundromat.

It was one of those places where they had books and while we were waiting for our laundry, we read to one another.

We’d always wanted to have an informal wedding. When we were discussing where we should have it, we kept coming back to that trip and the most wonderful part about it, which turned out to be spending the end of the day at that laundromat.

We ended up having a very small wedding and the main part was an outdoor picnic at a really beautiful spot. But our parents wanted us to have a more formalized setting and vows. So, we chose that laundromat as the place. It was a short ceremony, but we got married there by a justice of the peace, while my brother completed a load of laundry.

It was a very nice day.

To make an appointment at Gillette Children's, please call: 651-290-8707.