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From Chief Resident to Folk Hero: An Update

Paralyzed physician S.B. Lee, left, has risen to fame in his native Korea.

Robert S.B. Lee, a quadriplegic since 1987 when injured while training for the Korean men’s Olympic gymnastics team, was featured in Dome last year, when he was chief resident in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. The story, as well as its condensed version in Hopkins Medicine magazine and subsequent press releases, led to a flurry of TV appearances and profiles in the Baltimore Sun, The New York Times and several Korean magazines, culminating in a book deal with a Korean publisher.

Lee’s book, The Miracle Lies Within You, debuted in August. It sold 25,000 copies during its first week, now is in its third printing, and remains No. 3 on the Korean bestseller list. Translations in Japanese, Chinese and English are in the works. Lee now has speaking engagements lined up around the world.

His appearance on Korea’s popular “Screening Humanity” television series sealed his fate as a folk hero. The next day, Lee received more than 10,000 e-mails. The Hopkins mailroom was flooded with letters and packages of Korean food and handmade gifts. Unfazed by the time zone difference, women called Lee in the middle of the night, begging for a date.

Lee has been inundated with job offers, including one as vice chair of a new Korean rehab hospital. As of this writing, he’s still undecided. Most tempting is physician on the Korean Olympic gymnastics team. Says Lee: “I’ve never been able to abandon my Olympic dreams.”

—Judy Minkove



Johns Hopkins Medicine

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