Dr. Mom and Dr. Dad

Date: Thursday, February 8, 2024

When Allie Kim (18MD, 21R), née Rapp, and Sung Kim (15MD, 20F) met for their first date at Sanctuary Pub in Iowa City, they were both in a busy season of life. Sung was a fourth-year medical student at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine; Allie was a first-year.  

“We were there for six hours, just talking,” Allie remembers. "Then he said, ‘Allie, don’t you have your anatomy final?’” 

They married in Des Moines on May 14, 2016. Planning a wedding during medical school required a lot of time and many Excel sheets, but they were grateful to take the next step toward the family they both knew they wanted to build. 

“It was a beautiful wedding,” Allie says. “And then we went right back to Iowa City for school on Monday.” 

“No honeymoon,” Sung adds. 

A medical school wedding might seem like a wild idea, but for the future Kims, it made perfect sense—and it was just the beginning of their exciting journey together. 

Allie Kim, MD

Hometown: West Des Moines, Iowa 
Undergrad: University of Tulsa 
Specialty: Emergency medicine 

“I went into medical school thinking I would be an orthopedic surgeon, but I couldn’t imagine myself in any other specialty now. I like to encourage medical students to keep an open mind regarding their specialty, as it may be something totally different than you initially expect.” 

Family portrait of Allie and Sung Kim with their two children
Sung Kim, MD

Hometown: Seoul, South Korea/Northbrook, Illinois 
Undergrad: University of Iowa 
Specialty: Cardiac anesthesiology 

“I’m detail-oriented and aware of what’s going on in my surroundings, and anesthesia, from that standpoint, fits my personality well. I enjoy talking with patients to get them through a good surgery and put them at ease.” 

Completing the Kims 

Our next crazy decision was having two children during residency,” Allie jokes. 

Family planning can be a hard equation for medical professionals in training. Once you consider the years of training, coupled with their intensity and often long hours, there’s not much time left over for taking care of young kids. The Kims, who were simultaneously completing their medical educations and training, felt that pressure by double. 

“During residency, I would get to the hospital before 6 a.m. and not get home until maybe 7 p.m. some nights. None of those hours are daycare friendly,” says Sung. 

Allie was pregnant with their first child on her Match Day and Sung was in residency training. The couples Match only applies to couples who are matching in the same year, so there were no guarantees that Allie would be placed in a program nearby.  

“I went to Match Day with my pregnant belly, and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, if I don’t match in Iowa, what are we going to do?’” she says. “Thank goodness, I matched at Iowa! I had our first baby in August, the month after I started my intern year.” 

The emergency medicine residency program was very supportive during her two periods of maternity leave, Allie says. Ultimately, she only had to extend her residency by a few weeks to meet her training requirements. This was partially thanks to a remote rotation option the program offers that is specific to trainees on parental leave, wherein the trainee reads medical articles about a pregnancy or post-partum topic relevant to emergency medicine and presents on it. 

 “My program was very family friendly and willing to accommodate me,” she says. “We were determined to make it work, and it worked out just fine." 

When it was time for Sung to match into a fellowship program, the young family found themselves in another period of uncertainty.

“It was difficult—there was so much that was just unknown,” Sung says. “If there are medical students who might be reading this in a similar situation, I think it benefits you to disclose that kind of information to the programs you’re interviewing with.” 

Though it won’t be a deciding factor, Sung clarifies, he thinks the information can help a program place trainees in a situation that not only serves them academically, but also allows for work-life balance and social support.

The Kims, now parents to Charlie, 5, and Liam, 2, say their top advice for balancing parenthood and medical training is to reach out for help wherever you can. 

“You have to have support,” Allie says. “You have to be realistic about if you can make this work. Do you have the support you need financially and with childcare providers? If so, then I think you should go for it!” 

“I would also say you have to be ready to make sacrifices,” Sung adds. “Neither of us took any vacations during training or traveled anywhere, and there were some sacrifices in the social aspect. But I’ve never had a second thought about any of that.” 

Is your perspective on parenting different because you’re both doctors? 

If our kids are injured, we can assess and treat them, or know if we need to seek help. At the same time, I try not to be a know-it-all parent. When we take our kids to the pediatrician, we respect their opinion and advice. I’m not a pediatrician!” - Sung Kim

Doctors teaching doctors (and future doctors) 

While their kids are still young, Allie chose to work part-time in the emergency department at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines. This summer, she will transition toward a more administrative role as one of the core faculty members of the hospital’s new emergency medicine residency program. She will lead the program’s physician wellness curriculum, helping to provide resources, social opportunities, and mentorship to the six trainees in the program’s very first class. 

“I love to teach, and I really care about the trainees as people,” she says. “My mode of operation is a lot of kindness. If they make a mistake, I’ll tell them, but it’s also important to be patient with them. We’ve all been there.”  

Sung works with a private practice group affiliated with UnityPoint, so the two sometimes cross paths in the hospital and get the chance to say “hi.” He also travels back to Iowa City to practice at UI Health Care’s university campus, especially when there is a need for an anesthesiologist with cardiac expertise. 

“I benefit a lot from getting to interact with the residents and experience the teaching side of things,” he says. 

The Kims’ next career phase will involve guiding early-career physicians at work—and they’re already doing so for some of the young physicians of tomorrow. When neighborhood kids are curious about what a doctor does, they take the time to show the youngsters a few basic exam skills like how to use a stethoscope and talk them through what to expect at the doctor’s office. 

“Even our 2-year-old knows how to put a stethoscope on someone’s chest!” Sung says. “I was like, ‘How do you know where to put that thing?’”