Eden Yoon, MD
Kind and approachable, Dr. Yoon has a cheerful and fun-loving personality. Passionate about helping people see, he enjoys the intricacies of eye surgery. Born in Glendale, California, Dr. Yoon grew up nearby in San Gabriel and liked to play sports. He enjoys traveling, cooking, working out, playing basketball, and reading. He and his wife, Brinja, a dental hygienist, live in Gig Harbor, Washington. They have a daughter and son, Tealyn and Tayte.
Cataract Surgeon based in our Tacoma, Washington office
: In the early 1980s, your parents came to California from South Korea. What prompted the move?
: At that time, the Korean economy was unstable. My dad was a language teacher, and my mom had been studying to be a nurse. But she was pregnant with my older brother, and they had family in California. So they made the move with $500 in their pocket and a hope of living the American Dream. They settled near Los Angeles, where they now own and operate a large wholesale produce company that distributes locally and internationally.
: What was your childhood like?
: We lived in a small house, and I shared a room with my older brother, Enoch, until we went to college. My mom has six brothers and sisters, and they all lived nearby, so I grew up with lots of cousins. Even though our house was small, the yard was big with several fruit trees. There was lots of room to run around. We also like to play football and basketball in the street.
: Was there any sibling rivalry with your brother?
: Being four years older, he was like my supervisor. But I wanted to go wherever he went. With him, I got to hang out with the older kids. Of course, there were times when my brother didn’t want me tagging along. He’d be upset, but my parents made me stay with him. As the years went by, I just became part of the group.
: What were important influences early in your life?
: I went to the same church school from kindergarten through 12th grade. It provided a safe place for me to play sports, be involved in various activities, and gain experience leading clubs and organizations. I never felt smart or got straight A’s in grade school. I studied just enough to get by.
Then, during my freshman year, I read Stephen Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’m not sure why I picked it, but it made an impression. I could take charge of my life and be proactive and responsible. I felt if I put in the effort, I could get straight A’s, or I could be better at basketball, and anything else I set my mind to do. That book changed my approach to life.
My parents’ experience in South Korea has also had a big influence on me. When my dad was two years old, his father died from surgery complications. My grandmother didn’t have enough money to care for all her children and needed to find a place for dad to stay. She’d heard about Seoul Sanitarium and Hospital, which was founded by an American missionary, Dr. George Rue, and his wife, Grace. The facility also had an orphanage, so that’s where my dad grew up. He loved the orphanage and the care Mrs. Rue provided.
As a young adult, dad developed health issues and was admitted to the hospital for treatment. Some of the staff there really liked how positive he was, and they also knew my mom. So there was some match-making, and that’s how my parents met.
: When did you begin to think about choosing a career?
: I hadn’t been exposed to medicine growing up—just the stories my dad told about Dr. Rue and the hospital in Korea. However, as a senior in high school, I decided to pursue medicine. I love sports, and I love the LA Lakers. So, in our school’s yearbook, I said my career goal was to be a sports doctor for the Lakers! I thought I was going to do orthopedics. But in the third year of medical school, I had an ophthalmology rotation. The doctors I met seemed more positive and happier than many doctors in other specialties. The surgeries were quick, and patients were so grateful for improved vision. Some cried, telling how they hadn’t been able to read for years—and now they could again! I began talking with various eye surgeons, including some at PCLI, who were involved with mission trips. That appealed to me and reminded me of how much Dr. Rue had accomplished in Korea—and the difference he’d made. What if I too could go on mission trips and have a profound influence on people’s lives? That drew me in.
: What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of your work?
: I really enjoy the social and emotional connection with patients, and I want each person to feel valued. I remember one woman who had cataracts. She spoke only Spanish. In college, I majored in Spanish and spent time in Spain, so I was able to speak and pray with her. It was a touching experience.
: What took you to Spain?
: I studied there for my junior year in college. That’s how I met my wife, Brinja. She’d grown up in Chehalis, WA and was in my class. We struck a good friendship. By the end of the year, she knew I’d totally fallen for her! We started dating after returning to the United States. After college, I took a year off before medical school. For several months, Brinja and I volunteered at a Christian crisis center for abandoned and abused girls in Iquitos, on the Amazon in Peru. It was an awesome experience. We grew closer to each other and God and had the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of these girls.
: It sounds like you enjoy traveling. How many countries have you visited?
: After living in Spain, I had a travel explosion. I haven’t tallied, but I visited more than 30 countries between 2006 to 2010. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to travel more, spending time on every continent except Antarctica. It’s been incredible to explore the world and experience different cultures.
: You’ve recently traveled to an entirely different type of world: parenting. Tell me about that.
: Brinja and I have an almost 4-year-old daughter, Tealyn, and a 2-year-old son, Tayte. With coronavirus stay-at-home orders this spring, we had lots of family time. As our kids grow and learn, every day is an adventure. We have woods and nearby trails to explore, and I love being outside with them. My wife and I enjoy cooking, so we spend a lot of time in the kitchen. We’re into a whole-food, plant-based diet, so our children eat lots of veggies. I like a lot of different flavors, so they’re also getting exposed to many herbs and spices.
: How did you end up at Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute?
: During my ophthalmology residency, I had LASIK at PCLI to correct my nearsightedness. They gave me first-class treatment. My wife’s father, Marlin Gimbel, is one of PCLI’s administrators in the Chehalis office. So when I came to Washington for family visits, I’d often observe surgery and chat with some of the surgeons. Everyone was so nice. They’d joke around and ask, “When are you going to join us?” A year after I completed residency training, an opening came up for a surgeon based in the Tacoma, WA office. I was happy to be selected.
: What do you think patients are most likely to notice about you?
: Probably my smile—although that’s a bit difficult now that we wear masks all the time. I truly care about my patients and aim to make them feel comfortable and understood. I think a smile helps communicate that. Of course, I want to provide the very best surgery, but the trust relationship is important. There’s a quote I like by Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I want patients in my care to feel a difference.
2013 – Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda, CA
2017 – Ophthalmology – Loma Linda University Medical Center, Loma Linda, CA
2017 to 2018 – Vancouver Eye Care,
2018 to present – Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute
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We specialize in cataract surgery and LASIK laser vision correction. When you entrust us with the care of your vision, our team of experts concentrates their skills on giving you the best possible outcome. Having performed over 500,000 micro eye surgeries, we have earned a reputation for world class care.
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