LINUS LEE: HARD WORK TO FULFILL A LIFELONG DREAM

When Linus Lee was just four years old, his parents made the decision to immigrate from Korea to the United States so that Linus could grow up surrounded by opportunity – both academic and personal. From that day, Linus and his family have made countless sacrifices and worked tirelessly to help him achieve his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor.

Linus moved with his parents to Knoxville, Tennessee, where his father was attending graduate school and working as a researcher. Throughout his childhood, his father’s research took Linus and his family all over the country, from Knoxville to Denver to Cleveland. He says, “Everyone tells me America is a melting pot, [and] I think my experience has been kind of like that.” Because of their cultural diversity, Linus believes that the experience of living in multiple locations has given him a unique perspective and ability to relate to others. Linus’s childhood experiences fundamentally helped shape his personality, values, and viewpoints. Throughout his life, Linus has taken advantage of the limitless educational opportunities that his parents worked so hard to surround him with. His efforts paid off when he earned a scholarship to attend Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where he majored in biomedical engineering.

During his undergraduate years, Linus participated extensively in research on breast cancer tissue and bone metastasis of the cancerous tissue. Linus’s choice to study this topic was influenced partly by his dad, who had researched breast cancer when Linus was growing up. Upon graduation, Linus decided to take a gap year, during which he stayed at his lab to further research a developmental protein that drives breast cancer metastasis to spread to bone tissue, in an effort to look at a way to interfere in the developmental protein action through gene therapy. In addition to this research, Linus’s lab was also a drug delivery lab, and he had the opportunity to work with the Luciferase gene, which gives fireflies the ability to light up. By injecting the gene into mice, the team was able to see the effects of drug delivery in the body.

Linus Lee, Carle Illinois College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Linus with his family at his graduation from Vanderbilt.

It was during his time at the research lab that Linus first heard about the Carle Illinois College of Medicine from a friend. Linus decided to apply, and said, “Applying here seemed so in line with what I’d been doing. The whole idea of connecting engineering and medicine is what I had been wanting to do and what I’d been doing my best to do during my undergrad.” Being here, Linus has been pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere in Champaign-Urbana. He loves how big the university is, and he enjoys the presence of a young population and progressive community. Now he’s able to add Champaign to the list of unique places he’s lived that have helped shape his perspectives.

Something that’s really moved Linus about medical school and the Champaign-Urbana Community is his experience in the clinic. He marvels at the fact that patients at the clinic so willingly allow him to be part of their lives even though he’s a student. “I’ve been very surprised but very appreciative,” he says, because the experiences in clinic show him what the day-to-day life of a physician looks like.

A lifelong dream fulfilled

Attending medical school has been Linus’s lifelong dream, so he came prepared for the challenge. But he says his favorite part of the experience so far has been the camaraderie between all the members of the inaugural class. “Our group has been really good about supporting each other and lifting each other up when we need to be lifted,” Linus said. It helps that in such a small class, everyone is going through being a medical student for the first time together and able to support each other through the long haul of medical school. Another way Linus likes to relax is through finding time for his passions of cooking and baking. He loves cooking all kinds of dishes and baking bread, specifically sourdough bread. Initially Linus was intrigued by sourdough because of the science behind the bread culture. He was fascinated by the live culture, made from feeding the natural yeast and bacteria, and its ability to provide rise and levain to the dough. Now, he finds the time and intricacy that goes into baking to be highly therapeutic and just what he needs if he wants to take a study break. As Linus describes it, medical school is “a long haul,” so he says he’s been grateful to have an experience where he can find time for his hobbies while making sure to get the most out of his medical education and become the best physician he can be.

Bombolini, Linus Lee, Carle Illinois College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
One of Linus's creations, bomboloni.

Linus’s definition of success is multifaceted. He has big aspirations for his career. He strives to be a compassionate physician-innovator who “doesn’t just stop at the physician part” and is always equipped with the tools to help his patients. And, he hopes to one day return to bone research. However, another major aspect of success for Linus is his family. Acutely aware of the sacrifices his parents have made to help him get to where he is today, Linus cites them as his biggest role models and strongest motivators. He has wanted to be a physician for as long as he can remember and now that he’s in medical school, it’s the promise of giving back to his parents and making his family’s sacrifices worthwhile that drives Linus to succeed. Medical school, he says, is like “the last chapter in a book for my family”. It is the manifestation of the Lee family American Dream.

“The whole idea of connecting engineering and medicine is what I had been wanting to do and what I’d been doing my best to do during my undergrad.”

The generosity of people like you made it possible for Linus and his classmates to attend Carle Illinois with scholarships.