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Sharing the joy of medical mission

Partnership provides training and textbooks to physicians

by Chin Yong Pak, M.D. | Mission Crossroads

Marabi Gilbert Khoyo, M.D., a pediatric urologist from Kenya (right), receives textbooks through the PC(USA)-Severance Professional Development Award, presented by Chin Yong Pak, M.D. (Photo courtesy of Yonsei University Health System)

In previous decades, traditional mission took place between “suppliers” and “receivers.” This article highlights a multilateral partnership across continents and cultures, a partnership of more than two centuries between the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)  and Severance Hospital in Seoul, South Korea.
— the Rev. José Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission

I took Elias and Gilbert, Kenyan doctors, to the medical library of Yonsei University Health System in Seoul, South Korea. They came to Korea to be trained in the hospital’s urology department. They walked around in the library and stopped at the urology section, picking up a few books and flipping through the pages. They took out “Campbell-Walsh Urology,” a textbook regarded as the bible in the field. I could see their sparkling eyes, which seemed like children’s eyes that wanted a toy so much but could not possess it. I told them that they could borrow books from the library, but they politely declined. I felt sorry to see them turn back from the bookshelves.

It is not easy for doctors or students in medically underprivileged countries to purchase medical textbooks because the books are not available, or those who want them cannot afford them. E-books are easier to access but cannot take the place of hardback or paperback books that can be marked up with notes to review.

The contribution from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to Yonsei has been continuous, since Louis Henry Severance, a Christian philanthropist who became wealthy through his work in the oil industry, made the first donation in 1900. In 2017, Yonsei launched a program to help medical personnel from medically underprivileged countries receive training at Yonsei and receive professional books with funds from the PC(USA). Neurosurgeons from Indonesia and Bangladesh have been trained in Severance Hospital thanks to the support from the PC(USA). The PC(USA)-Severance Professional Development Award provides up to $500 in medical textbooks for each awardee. So far, 20 doctors, dentists and nurses have received this award.

In 2017-18, physicians from Korea, Kenya and Mongolia completed training in pediatric urology, ophthalmology, pediatric neurology, urology and rhinology at Severance Hospital, part of the Yonsei University Health System in Korea. (Photo courtesy of Yonsei University Health System)

Three months after our trip to the library, I asked Elias and Gilbert to choose books to purchase, since the new project had been launched. As I expected, they chose “Campbell-Walsh Urology.” When the books were awarded, their faces were shining with gratitude. They said that they always wanted “Campbell-Walsh Urology,” along with other textbooks, to be their own.

At that moment, I was able to fully understand Mr. Severance when he said, “My joy of giving is greater than your joy of receiving.”

Severance faithfully contributed to Korea during his lifetime through support of pre-eminent medical missionaries such as Horace Newton Allen, M.D., and Oliver R. Avison, M.D. His legacy lives on through the inheritance he left to Severance Hospital in his will and through the J.L. Severance Fund, established by his descendants. The support of the Severance family’s “joy of giving” has helped Yonsei grow to become a well-recognized academic medical center, establishing medical mission standards through education.

Having been a beneficiary, Yonsei has taken a step forward to become a partner in mission with the PC(USA). It is an advancement of the relationship. Yonsei and the PC(USA) will create medical mission projects and manage them together. This new relationship has begun already through these small but significant textbook awards.

This partnership is an example of how God has used Presbyterian World Mission and Yonsei to bear fruit. My hope is that God’s kingdom will extend more powerfully and effectively through this partnership. Together we can work to provide academic training and education, building good Christian doctors around the world, ultimately glorifying God together.

Chin Yong Pak, M.D., is a graduate of Yonsei University College of Medicine, established by missionaries from the U.S. and Canada in 1885. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has sent many missionaries to Yonsei for more than a century. He has served in medical missions in Mongolia and China and is currently the director of the Medical Mission Center of Yonsei University Health System in Korea.

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Support the ministries of Yonsei University Health System: (designate your gift for YUHS)

This article is from the Spring 2019 issue of “Mission Crossroads” magazine, which is printed and mailed free to subscribers within the U.S. three times a year by Presbyterian World Mission and also available online at


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