ALUMNI: Unusual career leads Emily Kim back to Davis

PHOTO: Davis High alumna Emily Kim graduated from the UCLA School of Public Health on June 13, 2003.

By Tobias Kim, Staff–

Since graduating from Davis High in 1994, Emily Kim has earned a bachelor’s degree in ethnic studies and a master’s degree in community health science, all leading her back where she started, in Davis.

When she was a Blue Devil, Kim planned to go to Duke University and take the classes in her undergraduate years that would prepare her for medical school. Her dream fell apart when she was waitlisted six months after her application was sent in. 

“When I didn’t make Duke, I didn’t tell anybody. There was so much pressure at DHS,” Kim said. 

She immediately bounced back, accepting a spot at UC San Diego. Then, however, her original plan to go to medical school changed. 

“Introduction chemistry was really scary. Also, at the time, women weren’t encouraged in the STEM fields, and we did not feel as confident in our abilities in those areas,” Kim said. 

Kim switched to ethnic studies and immediately enjoyed her college course much more. At UCSD, she met Isaac, her future husband, in one of her classes. “He has been the most supportive of me throughout my struggles, especially at UCSD when things got tough,” Kim said.

She graduated from UCSD in 1998.  

Once again at a crossroad, Kim decided to go on a different career, applying to UCLA in order to pursue a master’s degree in community health science. 

Following her graduation from UCLA, Kim moved with her soon-to-be husband out to the east coast, and worked as a clinical research coordinator at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 

After a year or two, they moved back to Kim’s hometown of Davis, California. Kim has worked as a research administrator in Pediatric Emergency Science at UC Davis from 2004 to 2019, quitting her job this past January.

According to Kim, the greatest challenge throughout her whole career has been the pressure that she puts on herself. “I would say that the largest amount of pressure came from myself; I’m extremely internally motivated.”

Kim definitely thinks that DHS is a highly competitive environment, expressing that its standards are high and it can make a lot of smart students feel average. “It pushes students to succeed academically and professionally,” she said. 

This year, Kim quit her job to be home with her three children. “My job at UCD involved work on very high-pressure grant deadlines, which were stressful for a family with young children.” 

Kim indicated that she would consider returning to work in public health, but would like to consider alternative fields as well.

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