Meet Dr. Christina Chung
Dr. Christina Chung is a dermatologist at Drexel Medicine, where she specializes in the treatment of ethnic skin, cosmetic dermatology, and women's health. Dr. Chung is also an assistant professor at Drexel University College of Medicine.
For those of us who only know you as Dr. Chung, can you tell us a little bit about your life before medical school?
I was born here in Philadelphia to parents of Korean descent and grew up in the immediate suburbs (Whitemarsh Township). My family was very close, and from a young age my parents instilled in me a love of traveling and learning about new people and places. We were quite active, and I grew up playing tennis and skiing, but I also developed a love for the arts. I have many fond memories of my childhood art school and summer camp, both of which I attended for years. While in high school, my inspirational Spanish teacher gave me the opportunity to participate in an exchange program that allowed me to spend some time in Zaragoza, Spain, and thus was born my love of the language and the cultures associated with it.
After high school, I left the area to attend Amherst College in Massachusetts, where I majored in Spanish and focused my other studies in the fine arts but, as planned, I returned to Philadelphia for my medical training. I did, however, take a year off during which I worked as a reproductive health counselor and took painting classes. In fact, prior to starting medical school, I spent the summer at an art school in Barcelona.
Art is obviously something you're very passionate about. Do you still paint? And do you think your artistic abilities have helped shape your approach to medicine?
I wish I had more time to paint, but I don’t have too much free time, working full time and being a mom to an infant and a toddler! I dream about constructing a proper studio in my house one day. But for now I’m painting furniture, walls and the occasional acrylic for the kids’ rooms. Medicine is the art of healing which, like the creative arts, requires elements of nurturing and expression in addition to technical knowledge and skill.
You said you came back to Philadelphia for medical training "like you planned." Did you always know you wanted to be a doctor, and what made you choose dermatology?
Even as a young child, I wanted to be a doctor. My pediatrician growing up was the kindest man. I viewed him as someone who was always helping people feel better and I liked that. As I grew older, that sentiment continued and I wanted my career path to be one that would allow me to reach out to people and make a difference, no matter how small, in their lives.
My interests as a young adult were concentrated in women’s health, and my initial inclination was to pursue a career in obstetrics and gynecology. I remember one of my mentors in the field suggested that I go into dermatology because he felt there was an untapped need for women’s health practitioners within the specialty. I thought he was crazy — dermatology had not been on my radar. Years later, as I prepared to seek a residency position in internal medicine, I had the opportunity to spend time with a pediatric dermatologist during my pediatric clerkship. In a mere four days, I realized that I had found the perfect fit. Dermatology was an inherently visual and procedure-based field that allowed me to integrate all of my interests in medicine, while simultaneously appealing to the artist in me.
Being a Philadelphia native, how important is it for you to help educate the local community about skin care? What type of work have you done in the community to help improve awareness?
The best way to leave an impact on society is to engage one’s community. I think it is important for everyone to contribute his or her knowledge to promote growth and, specifically for us physicians, to encourage a healthy lifestyle.
Our department hosts a variety of free skin cancer screenings throughout the year, both in our offices and out in the community. I have also enjoyed many opportunities to serve as a volunteer speaker/panelist at support groups, lunch and learn sessions, and conferences.
You live a pretty active lifestyle — playing ultimate Frisbee and riding your bike around the city — is there a certain type of sunscreen you'd recommend for other active people? Do you have any other skin care tips for outdoorsy people?
I would recommend a broad-spectrum sunscreen that contains either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide with an SPF of at least 30. It is also important to reapply every one to two hours, particularly if one has been actively sweating. I would also recommend wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sun-protective clothing when possible. Those who spend a lot of time outdoors should also remember to wear insect repellant and check for ticks. It is important to notify one’s physician if there is any chance of having been bitten by a tick. Also, for those who are allergic and have been exposed to poison ivy, it is important to take a shower after returning indoors.
You speak three languages — Spanish, Korean, and English — how has this helped you working in an urban environment like Philadelphia?
Being able to communicate in three languages has helped me immensely working in a community that is as multicultural as Philadelphia. There are some days where I get confused trying to switch between the three! My patients seem more open and at ease when they find that I can understand them in their native tongues. I feel grateful to be able to offer a small level of comfort for those who find themselves in need of medical care in a foreign country.
What do you like most about working at Drexel?
Drexel Medicine serves a wonderfully diverse population and I enjoy working in such an ethnically, socioeconomically, and gender-diverse environment. There is also a level of collegiality amongst the physicians that makes getting up for work an easy task.
How is Drexel staying on the cutting edge of dermatology?
The Department of Dermatology, in collaboration with the Hahnemann University Hospital Kidney and Liver Transplant Program and Drexel Cardiothoracic Surgery, recently launched our Center for Transplant Patients, one of only a few in the nation. We offer comprehensive skin care to organ transplant recipients who are at increased risk of developing skin cancers and are conducting research on both clinical and quality outcomes in this patient population. Our department is also actively conducting original research in the role of bacterial biofilms in the pathogenesis of a host of cutaneous and extra-cutaneous disease.
Christina Chung, MD
Ethnic skin, cosmetic dermatology, and women's health
BA, Spanish – Amherst College
MD – Temple University School of Medicine
Drexel Dermatology Center City
The Arnold T. Berman, MD Building
219 N. Broad Street, 4th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19107
The information on these pages is provided for general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for consultation with a physician or health care professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health, you should consult your health care professional.
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