Penn State College of Medicine hires first Korean female dean

Cris Collingwood//June 1, 2023

Dr. Karen Kim - Photo by Eddie Quinones

Penn State College of Medicine hires first Korean female dean

Cris Collingwood//June 1, 2023

Dr. Karen Kim, vice provost for research at the University of Chicago, will take over the role from Dr. Kevin Black, who has served as interim dean since 2019, effective Sept. 1.  

Kim is the Sara and Harold Lincoln Thompson Professor of Medicine, associate director of community outreach and engagement for the National Cancer Institute-designated University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center, and founder and director of the Center for Asian Health Equity at the University of Chicago.  

Penn State Health said Kim previously served as inaugural dean for faculty affairs for the university’s Division of Biological Sciences. She brings more than 25 years of clinical, educational and research expertise with her to this leadership role at Penn State and is a nationally recognized leader in Asian health disparities. 

“Dr. Kim’s outstanding service over more than 25 years as a clinician, teacher, mentor, administrator, and community-minded leader and advocate for health equity make her a perfect fit for this role,” said Justin Schwartz, Penn State’s executive vice president and provost. 

 “In her discussions with the hiring committee it became immediately clear that Dr. Kim’s experience and vision will help to advance Penn State College of Medicine’s mission and increase community impact, in service to all Pennsylvanians, and with a focus on those who are members of rural and minoritized communities statewide,” Schwartz said. “We could not be more excited to welcome Dr. Kim to Penn State and the College of Medicine.” 

Kim will lead the College of Medicine in furthering its education, research and clinical missions, and will maintain and continue to build a strong culture of innovation and team-based interdisciplinary collaboration, Penn State Health said.  

She will play a critical role in shaping the clinical environment of the health system and will collaborate with Penn State Health CEO Stephen Massini to advance new and continuing initiatives across the University, including the other health science colleges. 

“Penn State has an excellent track record as a leader in interdisciplinary research and I want the college to continue to build partnerships and add to those collaborative successes,” said Kim. “I have spent my professional career in Chicago, but even as an observer in the Midwest it has always been plain to see that the love people have for Penn State is palpable, and that its reputation as a leading public research university is outstanding. To have the opportunity to be a part of that is amazing; I am excited to join my colleagues in the college to build on their success and further Penn State’s impact across Pennsylvania and beyond, including among underserved rural and underrepresented populations.” 

As dean, Kim will lead a college of about 1,400 faculty, 1,600 full- and part-time staff, an enrollment of approximately 1,000 students (medical, physician assistant and graduate) represented at both the Hershey and University Park campuses, and approximately 590 resident trainees and 140 fellows as part of the learning community at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. 

In addition to being Penn State College of Medicine’s first woman dean, Kim joins a small number of Asian women in leadership positions across U.S. medical colleges and will be the first Korean American woman serving in such a role nationally. 

“I am delighted to welcome Dr. Karen Kim to Penn State, and to my leadership team,” said Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi. “Her track record in service to others, speaks volumes about Dr. Kim’s qualities as a leader and visionary.” 

Bendapudi said she is taking the helm of a college of medicine that produces cutting-edge research and helps to advance understanding of health sciences across many disciplines.  

“The college’s educational and research excellence are part of what attracted me to Penn State, and Dr. Kim is the ideal person to lead continued growth, with a focus on interdisciplinary research, community outreach and impact, and service to underserved populations across Pennsylvania, the U.S. and internationally,” he said. “At a time when there is a growing need for qualified physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals in Pennsylvania and nationally, the educational and research missions of the college have never been more vital.” 

In addition to serving on Penn State’s President’s Council, the Academic Leadership Council, and the Council of Academic Deans, Kim will serve as co-chair of the University Health Sciences Council to advance the college’s and the University’s research portfolio and interdisciplinary education programs in biomedical and health sciences, Penn State Health said.  

She will serve as the chief academic and administrative officer of the College of Medicine, with a focus on working with department chairs, other leaders, faculty, staff and students to advance the college’s educational programs; strategically growing the research portfolio ; ensuring cutting-edge primary and subspecialty clinical care; actively engaging in the community; and continuing to invest in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging across the enterprise. 

Kim also will serve as a director ex officio of the Penn State Health board and as a member of the board’s finance committee. In addition, she will serve as the physician-in-chief of the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Penn State Health said.