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News of Otsego County

trauma surgeon

From M*A*S*H to Bassett

From M*A*S*H to Bassett

Full Immersion In Afghan War Prepared New Trauma Director

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Dr. Joon K. Shim, an unlikely “woman from New Jersey flying in a helicopter,” poses with a crew during one of her deployments with the Army in Afghanistan. (Photos courtesy Dr. Joon K. Shim)

It was Christmas Day.

“The Taliban likes to attack on holidays,” said Dr. Joon K. Shim, who arrived at Bassett Hospital Jan. 26 as a surgeon, as well as program director of the Columbia-Bassett Residency, training young doctors.

She heard “a huge ‘kaboom’” – a mortar attack. “I was on the floor with my face to the ground. I thought I would die that day,” said the physician, who was serving one of three deployments in Afghanistan.

But duty called in the form of an injured soldier, and she was soon back at the operating table.

“He held my hand and said, ‘Dr. Shim, I want to live’,” she remembered. Later, he had the opportunity to tell her, “Thank you for saving my life.”

She’s not the only Bassett physician to experience war. Dr. Shelby Cooper, a Navy lieutenant commander, was deployed to Afghanistan. So was the hospital’s president, Dr. Bill LeCates, who also serves as state surgeon for the New York State National Guard.

Still, on active duty for three deployments, in 2011, 2012 and 2013, Dr. Shim’s story, as she told it in a recent interview, is like an action thriller, beginning when – a recent Bryn Mawr, magna cum laude philosophy major – 9/11 happened.

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