A Mission to Serve
Dr. Brian Hwang, a Green Beret veteran, shares his story.
As a U.S. Army Special Forces medical sergeant, Brian Hwang, M.D., did everything from jumping out of airplanes and conducting covert missions to changing bandages and inserting IVs to amputating limbs and intubating patients—all under duress. “I wanted to serve this great country and fight for our freedom,” he says of his decision to serve in the military. Dr. Hwang feels extremely grateful for the opportunity to serve with the incredible men and women who are at our nation’s “tip of the spear.”
Dr. Hwang views the team at Providence Mission Hospital, in Orange County, Calif., in the same way. “It is an honor to be part of an elite organization because it inspires me to work hard, learn from each other and continuously grow. Mission has an exceptional reputation for bringing innovation and positive change to the community, and I’m thrilled to join.”
Born just outside of Washington D.C., Dr. Hwang moved to South Korea with his family at age 5. He returned here for high school and then attended Swarthmore College, a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, where he studied biology and studio art.
“I have always loved working with my hands, and art enabled me to use various media, such as wood and clay, to create memorable experiences for others,” he says. He then volunteered at a local hospital, where he discovered the immense joy of meeting patients and their families and listening to their stories. “I then decided to pursue medicine to serve those in need and to help them get through some of the worst moments of their lives,” he says.
Dr. Hwang attended medical school at Columbia University in New York and completed residency training in neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, where he met Jason Liauw, M.D., his longtime friend and now his neurosurgical colleague at Providence Mission. Dr. Hwang took a break from residency and enlisted in the U.S. Army and became a Green Beret. As a special operations combat medic, he was the expert in trauma, field surgery, infectious disease, anesthesia, dentistry and veterinary medicine. He also gained expertise in various weapons systems, jumped from planes at 30,000 feet and learned to survive in hostile and austere environments.
Dr. Hwang says his time in the service brought him a greater appreciation for the power of neurosurgery to change lives. And sustaining his own injuries and undergoing surgeries “gave me a glimpse of what it’s like to become a patient and to give up control and not know what’s going to happen,” he says. That’s one of the reasons why he’s inspired by the Providence Promise to “know, care for and ease the way” for our patients and their families.
Dr. Hwang specializes in degenerative spine disease, disc disease, spinal tumors, brain tumors, epilepsy, facial pain, movement disorders, and peripheral nerve disorders. He also serves as a neurosurgeon for the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
“I believe in promoting new medical and surgical technology that can have a positive impact on the health and well-being of Americans,” he says. “I am grateful to be part of an amazing team at the FDA that works tirelessly to help bring safe and effective medical devices to people.”
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