Dr. Jung Yoo stepping down as chair of orthopaedics and rehabilitation

Dr. Darin Friess to serve as interim chair

Drs. Yoo, Friess

Jung Yoo, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, OHSU School of Medicine, is stepping down as chair after 16 years. Dean Sharon Anderson announced that Darin Friess, M.D., associate professor and vice chair of orthopaedics, will become interim chair effective Oct. 1.

“Jung Yoo is a principled, accomplished and highly skilled clinician, teacher, researcher and leader,” said Dr. Anderson. “He led by setting a high bar for himself and others and supporting department members to reach it. He has been a staunch advocate for his faculty and never shied away from saying what he felt needed to get said. It has been a pleasure to have him as a member of the school’s leadership team and I, his patients and colleagues are grateful that he will remain on faculty.”

Dr. Friess, in a wonderful testament to the esteem in which Dr. Yoo is held, wrote the following tribute to him:

“Jung Yoo has used his wits and charm throughout his life to connect with those around him, leaving the places better than he found them. Reviewing his CV only provides a framework, but those who knew him well heard the joyful stories that came from these touchpoints.

He grew up on the northside of Chicago. He is proud of having graduated from Senn High School which was most diverse public high school in the U.S. with students from 50 nations. There he learned about struggles of students who had to survive in a system where 90% came from families below the federal poverty level. He grew up working as a tutor, factory worker, and finally as finance clerk for the Chicago Tribune.  At 18, he was baptized as a Roman Catholic and this became a center principle of his life. He graduated from Loyola University with degree in biology, but he spent most of his time studying humanities including philosophy, history, theology and economics that would later serve him better as a department chair. 

He was able to attend medical school at the University of Chicago with beneficence of scholarship. During this time period he met his lifelong love, Anne, on a Catholic Charities service trip.  His devotion to Anne, his family, and his church have been a constant through his life.  Later a chance mentor during medical school at the University of Chicago turned him to a career in orthopedic surgery.  He spent his residency at Case Western Reserve University and began a career in medical research that grew from the basic science of cartilage growth to innovation and one of the earliest patents on stem cells.  While at Case Western, he developed an interest in spine surgery and chose to do a fellowship in nearby Syracuse, New York.  As one might expect from Jung Yoo moving alone to New York, he lived cheaply and traveled back frequently to his family in Cleveland.  After his fellowship year he returned to the faculty at Case Western Reserve University to begin his academic career.  

His clinical acumen and surgical care have been sought by patients and other physicians.  All expected to receive a straight, thoughtful and certainly quick answer from him.  He asked his patients difficult questions and used their answers to research problems faced after spine surgery.  He has written seminal papers on swallowing difficulties after cervical spine surgery and urinary issues after lumbar spine surgery.

Under his departmental leadership, the Orthopaedic Surgery Residency at OHSU expanded from 12 to 25 residents and he still found enough time to win the yearly teaching award.  He has mentored over 40 fellowship trained spine surgeons.  As chair at OHSU, he hired a faculty that provides high quality care and is devoted to education and research.  He would proudly note that his department budget ran a positive margin every single year.

During his tenure as chair from 2004 to 2020, Dr. Yoo has changed the face of musculoskeletal medicine in Oregon. He developed a small department into a leading force at OHSU, fulfilling all the facets of a successful academic practice. The many lives he has touched to develop surgeons, educators, scientists, and genuine human beings is the legacy he leaves behind.  While Dr. Yoo will be moving on from the meetings and negotiations of a department chair, he seems to relish the chance to return with greater devotion to his surgical practice and teaching.  No doubt he will continue to make a difference for the patients he treats and the learners he teaches.  As always, he will have a story to tell and a twinkle in his eye.” 

Dr. Yoo's paintings

For his part, Dr. Yoo asked only to share his gratitude.

"I would like to express my thanks to the department and OHSU for having confidence in me and giving me this opportunity of being the chair,” he said. “I am proud that the faculty and the residents in the department are consummate professionals dedicated to the mission of patient care, education and research. We have grown in all these areas and we work as one team that like each other and care for each other."

Dr. Friess joined OHSU in 2006, specializing in orthopedic trauma surgery. Dr. Friess completed medical school and a master’s degree in public health at Tulane University in 1999, followed by residency at Case Western Reserve University where he first worked under Dr. Yoo. 

After a one-year fellowship in orthopaedic trauma surgery at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Yoo recruited him to join the OHSU faculty with the goal of building a robust fracture service.  Medical student and Resident education has long been a priority and he served nine years as the Orthopedic Surgery residency program director.  In 2016 he was promoted to vice chair of the Department of Orthopedics.

 “A mark of great leader is that they hire and mentor other great leaders,” said Dr. Anderson. “I have great confidence in Darin Friess. It is my pleasure to welcome him as interim chair.”

Above: Dr. Jung Yoo is a gifted artist. His portrait of Dean Mark Richardson, who died in 2016, captured the dean's warm and engaging nature. In the early days of the pandemic-induced lock down, Dr. Yoo created this painting of a couple dancing, bringing to mind a lighter time.