Man Achieves 3 Amazing Career Milestones as a Navy SEAL, Doctor, and Astronaut

Jonny Kim

When we’re younger, we have a lot of ideas about what we want to be when we grow up. Sometimes, they’re at odds with one another, and we’re forced to pick one direction to explore. But not for Dr. Jonny Kim. By the age of 37, he had achieved three amazing career milestones that each could've lasted a lifetime. He’s now a Navy SEAL, a Harvard-educated doctor, and a NASA astronaut.

So, how did he do it—and all in such a short amount of time? It actually helped that he had no idea what he wanted to be as an adult. It left him open to new opportunities. When Kim was 16 years old, he first heard about the U.S. Navy SEALS and decided to enlist instead of going to college.

Determined to earn a place on the Navy SEAL team, Kim was put on the elite force and assigned to SEAL Team 3. During his military career, he completed over 100 combat operations over two deployments; he served as a Special Operation Combat Medic, navigator, and sniper. Before leaving the Navy, he was awarded the Silver and Bronze Star with valor.

College came afterward, and Kim enrolled at the University of San Diego where he earned a degree in mathematics. But math wasn’t the path for him, as his time as a SEAL inspired his next life goal—to become a doctor. When serving in the Navy, he felt helpless seeing his fellow compatriots killed in action. He wanted to help “heal others,” and he has made that happen. In 2016, he graduated from Harvard Medical School.

“We are all a lot stronger and more capable than we really know,” he shared. “And that's what the SEAL teams taught me. And the war taught me a lot about how to be a human and having a singular focus to want to make an impact, to do public service.”

Kim’s quest “to want to serve humanity” didn’t stop in the doctor’s office. In 2017, he was selected by NASA to be an astronaut, making him the first Korean American to hold the position. Now part of NASA’s ARTEMIS team, he could be going to the moon as soon as 2024.

To learn more about Kim’s incredible life, listen to his interview with the Jocko podcast.

Dr. Jonny Kim has had three amazing careers during his relatively short time on Earth. He started as a member of the Navy SEAL.

Jonny Kim in Naval Uniform

Jonny Kim as SEAL Team Member

Jonny Kim as SEAL Team Member

After leaving the Navy, he earned his medical degree from Havard.

Jonny Kim Graduating From Harvard Medical School

In 2017, he was selected as an astronaut for NASA—the first Korean American to do so.

Astronaut Jonny Kim

Photo: NASA

Learn more about Kim in this introduction video by NASA:

Dr. Jonny Kim: NASA | Instagram | Twitter

All photos via Jonny Kim unless otherwise noted.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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