In memory of a young postdoc

Published in Biomedical Research

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It was the warm winter at the beginning of 2018. After Christmas and New Year in January, people still felt relaxed. On the other hand, the Chinese, Koreans, and Vietnamese got ready for the coming Lunar New Year. At the turn of the new year, the NIH campus was filled with a leisure and cozy atmosphere.

Despite the timing, postdocs still start the work of the day early and return home late as usual. All they hoped for is a paper that can be published in a high-profile journal, so that they could see their future in academics. For those postdocs who came from other countries, they needed to consider whether to persist until getting a "big paper" published, or take whatever they had and return to their home country as soon as possible. All this is just one of the many thoughts in the busy day of the rank and file in academic research.

Sang-A Park was only twenty-four years old when she received her doctorate from Ewha Womans University in South Korea. She had a bright future. She came to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) for postdoctoral training. Like most postdocs, she worked relentlessly even around all these different New Year dates and never had a real holiday. All she wanted was to see the experiment bearing fruit.

On Monday, January 22nd, 2018, she left at half past five, which was a little early for her. Daylight saving time would begin in March, so 5PM was completely dark at the end of January. Sang-A passed through the parking lot in front of Building 10 and then walked across a driveway. Like most people here, she got accustomed to cars stopping for passengers, and she feels that every driver in the NIH campus would follow the rules, so she moved forward without concern.

Soon enough, a careless car came straight without slowing down. Sang-A Park was hit and died on the spot.

The next day, the entire NIH was shocked, and news reports were overwhelming. NIH Director Francis Collins sent an email expressing his condolences. The NIH police then enforced the law vigorously and strictly caught rule-violating vehicles and pedestrians. This is just the beginning. Following the accident, crosswalks were painted and flashing lights were installed on all the busy roads in the campus, ensuring that all vehicles were alarmed.

 NIDCR held a memorial service for Sang-A, hosted by its Scientific Director, followed by a whole-day symposium to celebrate her achievements. The NIH's Foundation for Science and Education (FAES) has also established the Park Sang-an Memorial Fund to sponsor lectures and seminars in her name. NIDCR also raised funds to build the Park Sang-A Memorial Garden on the slope in front of Building 30, with her photos and deeds engraved on it. 

She will be remembered as a NIH member who taught all of us an important lesson and promoted a safe environment at the cost of her precious life. Let's not forget her , let's care more about our postdocs.

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