Meet Jae Hwang, DO
Jae Hwang, DO, is a family physician and primary care doctor with offices at Einstein Physicians Blue Bell in Philadelphia’s Montgomery County suburbs. He is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. In addition to English, Dr. Hwang speaks Korean.
Q: Is there a Korean patient population in the Montgomery County area?
Dr. Hwang: In the past, the central point for the Korean community was in the Elkins Park (Cheltenham Township) area and North Philadelphia, around 5th Street. Over time, they have migrated to the suburbs. Now, the vast majority of Korean residents are in Lansdale, Blue Bell and Ambler, all the way out to Wayne, Bryn Mawr, and farther into Bucks County as well.
There is a huge demand for physicians who speak Korean fluently because there aren’t enough fluent Korean-speaking primary care physicians comparable to the size of the community locally.
The biggest challenge is the language barrier. Sometimes people have a problem setting up an appointment with a specialist, or for physical therapy, or imaging studies. Often, the office staff or I will help them set things up, or explain to them in Korean what is the right procedure to do. Sometimes, children of the older folks speak English fluently, so they can step in and help. But sometimes, that is not available to them, so we fill in those gaps.
Because of the language barrier, it’s very difficult for people to get in to see a doctor for everything from very small problems to major health issues. The level of care is not as comprehensive.
Q: Are there other challenges?
Dr. Hwang: Cultural barriers are there, too. There is a very strong sense of respect in the Korean community. You have to respect the elders, and how you greet them. How you talk to them is different than someone who is the same age as you or younger than you.
Calling someone by their first name in Korean is usually reserved for someone who is your same age. But you would never call someone by their first name who is older than you. You always call them “sir” or “mister.” So that’s one aspect of it.
Also, they’re very traditional in regard to how they respect women. It would be difficult for me to do a women’s exam. They feel more comfortable seeing a female physician for gynecological issues.
I got into medicine because my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The whole experience opened my eyes to this field. It felt like something worthwhile, far more than what I was doing at the time. So I wanted to be involved in it, to help treat people and help them heal from illnesses.
Q: Where did you grow up?
Dr. Hwang: I grew up in Seoul, South Korea, which is where I was born. I moved to the United States when I was 13. I went to Upper Darby High School.
Q: How did you become interested in the field of medicine?
Dr. Hwang: I got into medicine because my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The whole experience opened my eyes to this field. It felt like something worthwhile, far more than what I was doing at the time. So I wanted to be involved in it, to help treat people and help them heal from illnesses.
The whole experience opened me up to what disease does to someone’s life and family. And the whole reason why my mom came to know that she had ovarian cancer was because she was able to go to a primary care physician who recommended tests, which led to finding this cancer. If it wasn’t for that primary care doctor, who is a retired Einstein physician, I don’t think I would have had that valuable time with her in the later years of her life. I wanted to become the kind of doctor who figures things out so that other people could also have a better life.
Q: Where did you go to school?
Dr. Hwang: I went to Temple University for undergraduate, with a major in biochemistry. Then I went to the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, PCOM for short. I did my residency at the Crozer-Chester Medical Center. After residency, I came to Einstein.
Q: How long have you been at Einstein?
Dr. Hwang: As an attending physician, since 2015.
Q: What drew you to Einstein?
Dr. Hwang: My mom had her surgery at Einstein. I still remember. I think it was in the Levy Building, 8th floor, after she had her surgery there. We had had a difficult conversation about her diagnosis, and what her prognosis was.
At the time of her diagnosis, the cancer was third stage, so it had spread to different parts of her body. They gave her a prognosis of a couple of years. But with treatment through her oncologists and radically changing her diet, she ended up living for 12 years after that.
The whole experience drew me close to the hospital. I had also been a pharmacist technician there during my undergrad years, so it gave me a sense of familiarity. So when I was looking for a position after residency, I got in contact with Einstein. They were looking for a physician out here (Montgomery County). It’s actually close to home for me. I thought it was a great opportunity, so I jumped on it right away.
Q: What is your favorite movie?
Dr. Hwang: I would say “The Bourne Identity.” That first Bourne movie was pretty good. But if I had to go with a second best, it would be “Lord of the Rings.” It’s all about the friendship, having a mission amid all the conflicts of good and bad. That was a very interesting, engaging movie.
Q: What is your favorite book?
Dr. Hwang: I recently read a book called “Wisdom for Fathers.” It’s a book we read as a group of young fathers at the local church that I go to. It teaches you how to raise your child, to have them develop good morals, and also how to maintain a good work-life balance. It was very helpful and insightful.
Q: What is something people don’t know about you?
Dr. Hwang: When I was in high school, I learned basketball. I was adamant that I was going to go back to Korea as a professional basketball player—but only if I grew a few inches. That never happened.
For more information or to make an appointment, call 610-233-3895 or visit Dr. Hwang online. Einstein Physicians Blue Bell is located at 676 DeKalb Pike, Suite 104, Blue Bell, PA 19422.