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  • Writer's pictureAjumma EXP

Ajumma Janet: Fixing the Achy Joints

A former Michigander, Ajumma Janet is part of the Ajumma EXP dance crew, and we’re lucky to have her as her career comes in handy with our creaky hips and knees. She can boogie with the best of ‘em, and as you’ll read below, being an ajumma to Janet means, being fearless.


I am a truly blessed wife, mother of two amazing young ladies, and rheumatologist (arthritis doctor). I was born in Detroit, Michigan and am the oldest of 4 girls. My parents emigrated from South Korea right before I was born. My dad came to Detroit to do his medical residency in radiology while mom was busy pumping out babies, 4 of us girls in 5 years! I have fond memories of a happy childhood and upbringing with strong Christian roots.

(Janet and her sisters. She is the oldest of four, on the far left)

My parents drove us cross country for family vacations in a large yellow van while hitting various sites and theme parks; we spent a lot of time in the van singing the Grease soundtrack over and over.

I attended the University of Michigan for both college (Art History major) and medical school--Go Blue!! My favorite medical school memory was playing Areola in our musical production “My little Dermaid”. I finally left Michigan for the fantastic city of Chicago where I met my husband Nick during our intern year of medical residency. Residency was one of the most difficult but most fun times of my life as we worked hard and played even harder. Many a post-call night was spent going dancing, to poetry slams, to turtle races and to our local hangouts including Timothy O’Toole’s.

Fellowship training brought me and Nick out to San Diego where we had our two daughters, Courtney and Nicole. I worked at UCSD medical center for a few years then decided to go into private practice. I joined Allergy and Rheumatology Medical Clinic in 2002 and have been happily taking care of patients since. I love that my field of rheumatology is interesting and allows long term relationship building as most of our conditions are chronic. A few years ago, I took over as co- owner of the practice and have been learning a lot about the business end of things.

I am also so grateful that my husband, a fellow physician, is understanding of my career and my life choices. Nick also comes with a lot of other benefits including world travel and an open mind. He is an expert pulmonologist in his field who travels internationally.

As we both love world travel, we have made it a priority to introduce our daughters to global experiences. Highlight trips have included Cairo, the Galapagos, Africa for a medical mission, and a high altitude trek through the Andes to Machu Picchu. Other joys include spending time in nature hiking, reading, eating and exploring.

My favorite activity is spending quality time with friends and family as my love languages are quality time and encouraging words. I am a super big fan of being kind. If there is one thing I cannot stand, it is meanness. I was never the cool kid, because I was the one noticing the kid alone in the corner. I believe that there is good and beauty in everyone. If we look to the truth of kindness, love, and the beauty of nature, our world would be a much happier and more joyful place.


To me, being an ajumma means being comfortable in your own skin as you grow older and wiser. An ajumma is not afraid to be who she is, has strength of character and purpose, and is busy caring about others instead of herself. I love that the typical Korean ajumma wears practical clothing and hairstyles. She is also not afraid to speak up.

As I myself have grown older, I have felt more urge to shed superficial conventions, to be more authentic, and to feel comfortable saying what I think and believe. I think an ajumma is not afraid to be honest with herself and her life. By sharing life experiences in an open way, we can all learn, grow and find more contentment. I am so proud to be a part of Ajumma EXP because of the amazing crew of women that I have met. They are all fierce, fun and kind women whom I admire. Being able to be silly together as we flashmob around town is an added bonus! 📷


My first instinct was to say that I am a really good judge of character with good judgement. But my daughters informed me that my real supernatural power is the ability to handle anything without anxiety or worry. I was blessed to have parents that encouraged me not to be afraid of anything and told me that I could do whatever I set my mind to.

So I don’t have any phobias or fears. (At 50 years old, I went sky-diving for the first time which was an absolute thrill!) I have a naturally happy disposition and tend to look at problems as something to solve or move through. In this way, I feel that I have had a very lucky and blessed life. But circling back to my first point, maybe my luck is related to navigating away from negative situations and people, and moving towards those that I find authentic and good. These are traits that my fellow ajummas have in spades!


I do recall a major period of stress in my life when I was a college student facing medical school applications and trying to decide whether I really wanted to be a doctor or not. If you can believe it, I was also considering being a youth pastor as suggested by my church youth pastor at that time. It was an identity crisis that took a lot of thought and deliberation. I would say that one of the most physically and intellectually challenging times of my life was when I was an overworked medical resident on call every 3rd night, learning to take care of human lives. Yet it was also the most fun time of my life filled with incredible people, personal and professional growth, and lots of going out.


Never be afraid to make a change: I first heard this advice from my college English professor who was formerly a math professor for many years but did not feel passionate about her career. I think if we really listen to ourselves and trust our judgement, we will know when something is wrong and needs to be changed. This applies to decisions, relationships, any life choice. Sometimes we make mistakes, but if we redirect, we can get where we want to go. With this advice, I have found the courage and ability to say no to things, to leave wrong people or situations, and to accept changing expectations.


Easy—stinky cheese and wine! Ok, also Netflix binge watching


The beanier the better: daen jang jjigae and bin dae dduk (with makkoli)

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