From Medic to LPN: Program’s First Active-Duty Soldier Graduates

Sukwon Koh

Sergeant Koh, shown here in the nursing clinical simulation lab at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus, is advancing his medical career by becoming an RN. The accelerated Medic to LPN Transition to Nursing course helped him matriculate the program in four semesters while fulfilling his full-time military duties.

When Sukwon Koh ’18 left South Korea to study as an international student in 2004, he had no plans to re-enter military service. He was a sophomore at Emory University when he returned to his home country to fulfill his obligation; in South Korea, three years of military service is mandatory for all adult males aged 18 to 35. Koh returned to Emory in 2008 to complete a dual bachelor’s degree in anthropology and human biology. He then enlisted in the US Army as a path to citizenship.

Now 30, married, and living in Germantown, Koh has earned the rank of sergeant and will join the ranks of MC nursing alum—as of commencement this spring. He is the first active-duty military member to complete the College’s intensive Medic to LPN Transition to Nursing program, NU 130.

The eight-credit course, tailored to military medics and veterans, requires classroom study, plus 14 hours of laboratory and clinical training each week at off-campus locations. Originally 12 weeks long, it was condensed to 10 weeks to accommodate time off for students before the start of fall semester.

“Serving in the military is a 24/7 responsibility. Sergeant Koh has shown exceptional dedication to country and self and has opened doors for other medics at Walter Reed who may want to attend school while serving,” says Michele Harrell, nursing professor and coordinator of the Medic to LPN Transition to Nursing program.

While meeting program requirements—including clinical assignments at Holy Cross, MedStar, and Children’s Hospital—Koh worked his regular 40–42-hour work week as a dialysis nurse at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The College introduced the Medic to LPN program in 2009 as part of its efforts to meet a Maryland Board of Nursing mandate (2010) for promoting gainful employment for military members exiting service. Students entering the program receive credit for their prior experience, but must also complete prerequisites in biology, English, math, and psychology, a total of six courses. After successfully completing the program, students move into the regular nursing program (ADN). After graduating, they are eligible to take the NCLEX exam and become licensed registered nurses.

“Our goal for the program is to build capacity for nurses in Maryland while also impacting the needs of the military treatment facilities. Last year, 18 students matriculated,” says Harrell.

Koh completed his basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and AIT (advanced individual training) at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He was stationed at Fort Benning (Georgia) when he applied to a dialysis program offered only at Walter Reed Hospital (a five-month program). He has been a dialysis nurse at Walter Reed in Bethesda for more than a year. After MC, he will work toward a BSN and a military commission.

—Diane Bosser
Photograph by Pete Vidal

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