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Professor Baek Goo-hyun and the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games

  • March 19, 2018
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Professor BAEK Goo-hyun
Professor BAEK Goo-hyun

Professor Baek Goo-hyun, a specialist in orthopedics at SNU Hospital, served as the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. He led a team of 104 medical staff from the university that was stationed throughout the athletes’ village, stadium, and training centers for the athletes and the spectators.

Professor Baek mentioned the difficulties faced due to the harsh weather conditions. One such instance was on February 14, the day of the first hockey preliminary trials, on which strong winds reached up to 5-10m/s. He states, “it was difficult even just to stand. Never in my life had I felt such strong winds.” The winds were so strong on this day that the roof of the souvenir shop off, several of the performances were postponed, and there were even cases of injury.

To Professor Baek’s great dismay, the general clinic was also shut down out of fear of its collapse. After diligently working throughout the night to repair the damage, the staff was able to reopen the medical center by 10am the next morning and by 1pm, operations were back in full swing.

Another obstacle throughout the course of the games was the norovirus, a highly contagious gastrointestinal condition that swept through the Olympic Village. The norovirus is similar to any other stomach flu and results in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. With over 120 cases of the virus, severe measures had to be taken with 900 military personnel brought in to aid the medical staff in preventing further spread of the virus by inspecting the visitors upon arrival. To further prevent the virus outbreak, Professor Baek prepared a manual on how to prevent and treat the virus.

Faced with the scrutiny of global media coverage and with the medical chief of Canada threatening to pull out all Canadian athletes if the virus compromised even one, Professor Baek felt that this pivotal moment bore the weight of the success or failure of the Games.

As they successfully treated over 1350 patients, the medical team was praised for its service. Professor Baek attributed the team’s efficiency to thorough preparation and smooth communication. Having learned from his experience of this norovirus outbreak, Professor Baek said that his final task as CMO of PyeongChang 2018 will be to share his newfound insights with the medical staff of the upcoming Tokyo (Summer 2020) and Beijing (Winter 2022) Games.

Written by Yu Young Jin, SNU English Editor
Reviewed by Professor Travis Lamar Smith, Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations,

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