This Baylor Alumni Spotlight is part of a 2020 series featuring alumni who were working on the front lines of the COVID-19 response.
For Sam Han, his road to becoming a doctor started as an undergraduate at Baylor University.
"What really solidified it for me was the mentorship under (Retired Baylor Professors) Dr. Lisa Baker, Dr. Troy Abel and then (Pre-Health Program Senior Director) Dr. Richard Sanker," Han said. "I went to Kenya on a medical mission trip for about a month in my sophomore year... Just being able to sit there and see the line form at five in the morning, to see patients walk for miles to get care and to talk to a physician really opened my eyes and my heart to the need for physicians not just in the United States but across the globe. There's opportunity as a physician to touch lives spiritually, not just treat patients physically – to be able to pray with patients, to talk to them on a spiritual level and connect with them emotionally. That was one of the moments where everything clicked. The trip was when I realized that I was going to pursue this career, this vocation with all of my energy, and here I am."
"Here" is Boston, Massachusetts, where Han serves as a Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School and as a Surgical Fellow in Boston Children's Hospital's Center for Advanced Intestinal Rehabilitation. Since May 1, more than 9,500 Bostonians have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Boston Public Health Commission. Han said that he and his colleagues have adopted an "all hands on deck" approach to patient care, providing additional support in his hospital's emergency room while the city has stopped elective surgeries during the pandemic.
Han said that he and his colleagues have operated on COVID-positive patients during the past several weeks, while also helping to monitor ventilators and still meeting the surgical needs of his patients without COVID – many of whom are more gravely ill because they have delayed coming to the hospital out of fear of catching the disease.
"We're seeing patients and their families present later on in their course of disease because they're afraid," Han said. "They're afraid of getting coronavirus so we've seen a lot of more perforated appendicitis cases in kids, for example, where families have waited despite their kids having belly pain."
Fear is natural, but Han and his colleagues are doing their best to calm those anxieties while taking safety precautions and managing stress."That's been a challenge for me, too," Han said, with a laugh. "My wife is currently eight months pregnant with our first child. We are definitely excited, but there are definitely some unknowns. We're bringing a child into a pandemic, but for my wife and me, our hope doesn't lie in the world. We're given a lot of strength from trusting God and knowing He is sovereign, but, yeah, we're facing some challenges."
Faith is a central theme as Han explains his career, his approach to medicine, the family he is creating with his wife, Rebecca. When asked what role Baylor has played in his life and his calling, his answer came down to faith.
"My time at Baylor, is where I really found my roots -- my faith was really rooted during that time in college," Han said. "In Matthew 28 when Christ sends out his apostles to go and make disciples of all nations, I really do think that that's our calling no matter what field we are in. I can't say exactly where the Lord is going to take me. But ultimately, my wife and I hope that our focus will be on making disciples for Christ, whether it be the church that we are a part of, or the community we're within during my career as a surgeon, that is our goal."