10 Under 10: Dr. Mina Kim on volunteering, fulfillment and resilience

Photo of Dr. Kim
Family: Dr. Kim visits Vancouver, Canada, in September 2019 with her husband, Daniel Lee, and their puppy, Vito.
Editor’s note: Dr. Mina C. Kim, of New York City, is one of the recipients of this year’s 10 Under 10 Awards, which recognizes new dentists who demonstrate excellence early in their careers. Dr. Kim serves as the secretary with the New York County Dental Society, co-founded the Woman to Woman Dentists Network, was a graduate of the ADA’s Institute for Diversity in Leadership and currently serves on the dean’s strategic advisory committee at New York University College of Dentistry. Dr. Kim also founded the NYCDS Give Kids A Smile Day event and provides pro bono dental services to sex trafficking victims.

Editor's note: The American Dental Association is seeking nominations through Dec. 31 to recognize 10 new dentists in 2021. Honorees will receive a $1,000 gift card and be recognized in various ADA publications and channels. For more information or to nominate a new dentist, visit ADA.org/10under10.

Dr. Mina C. Kim wanted to be a dog dentist, combining her love for dentistry and a love for animals.

However, she first found herself working in corporate law. It wasn’t until she found herself spending some time working in her father’s dental office that she saw the difference she could make in people’s lives. Dr. Kim quickly pivoted, graduating in 2010 from the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine.

Following her graduation, Dr. Kim opened her own practice where she focuses on general and cosmetic dentistry.

“I've had the opportunity to see what we're doing, what we can improve on to be more efficient, and how we provide a great service for our patients,” she said. "I think being at different practices, in the beginning, helped me when it came to managing my own, and to just be open-minded."

In addition to her regular patients, Dr. Kim makes it a point to make a difference in other people’s lives. Once a month, Dr. Kim services a patient through the organization Restore NYC, which helps survivors of sex trafficking.

“[Restore NYC] helps them with job training and finding apartments so that they can go into society and function independently,” she said. "It can be very eye-opening and gratifying to be in a position to help someone who really needs you, and just seeing how happy they are after."

Dr. Kim also shared that one of her greatest moments doing pro bono work came from a particular patient who was moved to tears following her service.

“The patient had so much work that needed to be done, but that day, we provided her with a flipper,” Dr. Kim said. “She was so happy, she started crying, which made us all cry. I was just so happy to be able to provide a life-changing service for her. Sex trafficking survivors are subjected to not only physical abuse but psychological, which affects the self-esteem of a lot of these women. So moments like that, being able to help patients like her, showed how strong they are, and that I can make a change in their lives."

And it’s not just her patients’ lives that are affected.

"When I worked in the corporate sector, although I enjoyed it, I knew that it wouldn't give me that long-term fulfillment,” Dr. Kim said. “And with dentistry, I feel more fulfilled because I'm doing work that I'm proud of. Whether it's my regular schedule or working with Restore NYC, or volunteering at my local dental society, I can do that, and it will always be fulfilling."

“From a volunteer perspective I want people to know that I am resilient and have a lot of ideas,” she said. “But I want to encourage others to look at different ways to volunteer. And if one group or organization doesn’t let you do it, then look at others. Some people may not like your ideas, and it may be hard to get your point across, but keep being resilient. Because someone out there will give you a chance. And if you do a good job, it will open doors for others.”