Dr. Paik Nam-sun's revolutionary medical procedures for breast cancer
Dr. Paik Nam-sun's revolutionary medical procedures for breast cancer
  • Yeon Choul-woong
  • 승인 2011.08.24 11:18
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Dr. Paik provides medical services for Mongol communities

As the director of the women's cancer center at Ewha Womans University, a global standard hospital certified as an international medical institution, Dr. Paik Nam-sun returned from Mongolia last week where he was invited by the first lady to share Korea's advanced medical technologies with Mongolia National Cancer Center. He operated two cases of breast cancers at NCCM and three TVs(MNB,UBS and i-TV) in Ulaanbaatar interviewed him. There he signed MOU with HOPE, Mongolia National Cancer Foundation and Mongolia National Cancer Center for further collaboration in terms of education and new technic for cancer in the future.

Recently, he was listed among the Top 100 Health Professionals by the International Biographical Centre of Cambridge, England, one of the three largest publishers of biographical dictionaries. Director Paik has also drawn attention from the media with his 10 commandments for cancer prevention: have three to six cloves of garlic every day, exercise on a regular basis, eat more whole grains, eat whole grains, fish, vegetables, and fruits, develop your own method to relieve stress based on a positive mindset, enjoy singing and travel, have one or two glasses of wine per day, reduce coffee to two cups a day and have more teas instead, have lots of selenium, and choose your spouse carefully.

Dr. Paik was the first Korean surgeon who performed breast conserving surgery for breast cancer in 1986 and he started oncoplastic surgery for breast cancer, and has served positions like the chairman of Korean Breast Cancer Society and Asian Breast Cancer Society, and vice president of the Korean Cancer Association. The Korea IT Times sat with Director Paik Nam-sun, a globally-recognized authority on breast cancer treatments and a surgeon who schedules an operation within seven days after a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer, to talk about his philosophy and the role of Ewha Womans University Cancer Center for Women (EUCCW).

Health and passion - ingredients for leadership

Dr. Paik explains his revolutionary medical procedures

EUCCW allows patients to have an operation within 7 days after diagnosis as the institution boasts a number of specialists on ultrasonography, biopsy, breast specific gamma camera, CT, MRI,PET-CT etc. Decorated for women patients, the interior of the hospital looks almost as cozy as that of a hotel. Among dozens of cancer centers in Seoul, Ewha Womans University Mokdong Hospital is the only one with women's cancer center, which explains so many patients waiting for operation here.

Dr. Paik, who carries out seven to eight operations per day, believes it is his inherent health that helps him go through the demanding schedule. "I love sports so much that I was a football player at Iri high school and Seoul National University and a boxer in high school. And I used to running 100m in 12 seconds and even won a prize at the SNU marathon," he says.

His athleticism comes from the fact that he is originally from the countryside, Dr. Paik explains, before making a joke that he, a tennis player who won the first prize when he served as a medical officer and even at Korea Institute of Radiological and Medical Sciences, might be even a better athlete than the character played by Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate.

In his lectures on health and caner, Dr. Paik often says that "If you lose money and fame, it means you lose a little; but if you lose health, you are losing everything." He also emphasizes how important it is to be proud of one's age as it means old man has more experience and knowledge. "If you are getting older, that means you are getting wiser. As long as you have passion and health, it could be definitely an advantage over young people. So, instead of feeling less confident, you should maintain positive mindset and lead a healthy life even as you get old," he explains.

Dr. Paik introduces his books that provide information about cancer prevention and treatment.

Indeed, Dr. Paik is second to none when it comes to positive mindset as his blog title says: your positive thinking leads you to the new world. This world-renowned cancer specialist is also well-known among the medical community as a surgeon with a passion for singing. Believing that everything depends on your mind, he claims there is nothing like singing to make your life happier for him. In fact, singing is his own way to relieve the immense stress and tension that comes from performing highly risky operations. Dr. Paik's singing skills, which have been developed over a long period, met with great applause when he sang jazz in front of the audience after a seminar held abroad. Actually he had 5 times concerts with famous professional jazz singers, including German famous jazz group, Saltacello.

The next important thing, according to him, is the food we eat every day. "Carbohydrates, protein, and fat are essential nutrients for all people," Dr. Paik explains. "However, when you get older, you should reduce fat calories, including meat, to 20 percent or less of total calories." He added that the key to a healthy life lies in how and what you eat.

As a surgeon, he studied food for research on the cause and restraint of cancer at Japan's National Cancer Center in Tokyo from 1985 to 1986, which, in hindsight, was a very good decision because food is one of the biggest concerns for cancer patients. He says, "Food was part of cancer research too. Eating food is often the hardest challenge for cancer patients after they underwent cancer surgery, so I naturally became interested in food. And antioxidants and vitamins are some of the most important nutrients we should get from food," adding that he has been also taking health supplements including antioxidant vitamins, multi-vitamins, and calcium for over 30 years.

"Today's major causes of death include cancer, stroke, heart disease and suicide in order, Antioxidant vitamins delay the effects of aging. Vitamins A, C, and E inhibit free radicals, and vegetable fiber and antioxidant vitamins are two anti-cancer substances recognized by the U.S." He continued, "I recommend Korean food even for cancer patients, as the traditional Korean diet contains both of those nutrients. You might have already heard that Bibimbap was noted as one of the five healthiest foods in the world, and Namul and other seasonal vegetables in it are really good for health." Although he enjoys a wide variety of food, Dr. Paik avoids anything salty or hard because they can be even more harmful for the stomach than spicy or hot foods. Also, he makes sure to eat fruits and vegetables every day. Studies have found that a daily intake of 29g of fiber, which is rich in fruits and vegetables, can prevent colon cancer.

"Carpe diem"- today is the best day of your life

Life is a chain of moments, and that is why we need to focus on each present moment. "Carpe diem" is a well-known phrase from the film Dead Poets Society that Dr. Paik keeps in mind every day.

Dr. Paik was interested in cancer from early on and chose to major in cancer. His dedication to the present led to many records in the medical field that he owns today, including the first breast conserving surgery in Korea in1986. As a believer in the importance of globalization, he also advises that people should visit and see many developed countries, whether it is for study or business, since he believes that frequent visits to foreign countries eventually led him to develop several cosmetic surgery for breast cancer. It was in 1986 when he watched the surgical procedure at the Italian national cancer center and he tried new surgical technic by himself in Korea. Although many of his seniors opposed his attempt at that time, the breast conserving surgery now has become very common all over the world. Dr. Paik is also well known for stomach cancer operations on his own wife, a unique case rarely found anywhere in the world. After thankfully discovering the cancer in the early stage by endoscopy, he recommended two surgeons to his wife: one was his teacher, prof Kim, a renowned gastric cancer surgeon who also conferred the doctorate degree to Dr. Paik, and the other, Dr. Paik himself. His wife chosed him without hesitation. Luckily the operation was successful, it was a brave decision as doctors normally avoid operating on family members or relatives, it already passed 11years.

Oncoplastic surgery for breast cancer(right)

Oncoplastic Surgery for breast cancer

In the past, in case of even small cancer found on the breast organ should be removed completely. After wondering why he has to incise the whole breast when the women will obviously suffer from missing one breast, Dr. Paik decided to change the surgical procedure. Indeed, as the top authority on breast cancer, recently he invented new technical surgery and now performs oncoplastic surgery for breast cancer that not only removes the cancer but also includes plastic surgery.

Glocal management strategy

EUCCW's efforts for globalization have been spurred by Dr. Paik who had served as director at two hospitals, Korea Cancer Center Hospital and also Konkuk University Medical Center in Seoul with cancer professional with over 30 years' experience. For the institution's glocal (global and local) management strategy, he came up with two catchphrases: Patient Friendly Medical Utopia; and “Patient Friendly, C-SMART"

The core strategy for glocal management was named 4C-SMART: Creative, Confidence, Convenience, and Comfort. Based on creative ideas and the patient's confidence in the staff, EUCCW aims to provide comfort and convenience for those who visit the hospital. Meanwhile, SMART denotes the strategy based on: science and speed (S); management and medical tours (M); alumni alliance and alternatives (A); research and revival (R); and trust and technology (T), the factors that are particularly crucial in attracting foreign patients. Dr. Paik has recently visited many countries including those in South East Asia to introduce EUCCW and his new technic for breast cancer surgery and its 4C-SMART plans, and now the challenge is to bring these ideas to life.

Ewha Womans University Medical Center achieved the Joint Commission International Quality Approval

Internationally certified hospital with cutting edge equipment

After having Dr. Paik as director, EUCCW announced an expansion of the investment in service improvement. As part of the efforts, the institution has a plan significantly cut down the radiation treatment period from two months to around once(20-40min) or 4-weeks in order to reduce the time, cost, and psychological pressure of the patients, by employing Intra-Operative Radiation therapy (IORT) and Rapid Arc, state-of-the-art radiation treatment equipment, both of which will begin the operation within this year. The hospital has applied for a license to use these cutting-edge new machineries that are expected to make huge contribution to improving the image and brand value of EUCCW as well.

Meanwhile, EUCCW received an international certification in early July this year, while thanks to the Mongol first lady's invitation Dr. Paik had an interview on cancer in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia gave a lecture and he performed 2 cases of breast cancer operation at the National Cancer Center Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

In addition, the institution is planning to exchange the students and medical staff and nurses attract foreign patients by activating the strategic alliances with international university hospitals in the U.S, Japan, Hungary, China, and Mongolia.

The great doctor

A normal doctor treats illness. A good doctor treats a patients' mind and body. And a great doctor even treats the management of the hospital and social condition, as Dr. Paik has played a vital role in turning the two hospitals - the Korea Institute of Radiological and Medical Sciences and Konkuk University Medical Center - that used to suffer deficits into institutions with high profits. Also, Dr. Paik believes that the effects of treatment depend on patients' confidence in their doctor. So far, about 170 cancer patients have gone through successful operations by him, and the survival rate after cancer treatment has increased more than five years, which is an outstanding achievement. One could only see a great doctor in the man who is also planning to hold a party in these coming November for 10 year cancer-free survivor after he operated.


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