Alexander D. Chun

Alex Chun – Biographical Highlights

Born in New York City, Alex spent his early years in California and Oregon. While growing up in Davis and San Luis Obispo, California, Alex displayed his qualities as a free spirit, gifted flutist, and mechanical genius. He could be found skateboarding with a friend or racing a newly-built radio control car down the secluded street. Or you could hear the tones of his flute wafting through the night air across the low-lying darkened hills of San Luis. Given a choice of studying the flute or trumpet in seventh grade, Alex reluctantly chose the flute on the advice of his mother who promised him he could learn the trumpet next!
After moving to Portland Oregon during his middle school years, Alex began attending Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan during the summers. While only in eighth grade, Alex journeyed alone to Interlochen from Oregon, departing cheerfully to embrace a new experience that would change his life. He attended Interlochen every summer until high school graduation and later served as a counselor there. Due to the many geographic moves he made as a result of his mother, Dr. Edna Chun’s career, Alex considered Interlochen his spiritual home, the place that bound together all his experiences and where he made enduring friends.
Alex adapted quickly to geographic changes and at one point told his parents that he was glad he had the opportunity to live in different regions of the country including California, Oregon, Ohio, New York, and Florida. He made friends quickly and these relationships were highly meaningful to Alex. As an only child, Alex’s great love was for Sheila, a German shepherd huskie mix, who he adopted in a grocery store parking lot in San Luis Obispo when he was in the fifth grade. The bond between Alex and Sheila was profound. Sheila loved to hear Alex play the flute and would lie down under his flute stand while he practiced. As Alex’s inseparable and loyal companion, Sheila would join him to paddle enthusiastically at the beach or explore the local parks, always racing to return to him joyously.. Above all, Alex loved animals, and expressed concern for vanishing species, mistreatment of wild animals, and environmental harm resulting from climate change such as the loss of the ice cap for polar bears.
While in New York City as a junior in high school at the Friends Seminary in Manhattan, Alex soloed with the Goliard Ensemble, a professional opera company, performing as the Magic Flute in Mozart’s opera by the same name and playing a solo recital. Listening to Alex perform a movement of the Bach solo partita during a gathered meeting for Friends Seminaryas his flute tones reached the high vaulted ceiling was an unforgettable experience. As a high school senior at the Allendale Columbia School in Rochester, New York, Alex played with the Eastman School of Music High School Jazz Band and often had improvisatory solos with that group. A confident performer, Alex could move an audience to tears with the unparalleled warm and soaring tones of his flute taking his listeners into another sphere.
After an invited visit to Oberlin College one weekend, Alex determined that Oberlin was where he wished to attend. Turning down a full four-year scholarship in flute performance at another institution as well as other offers, he was one of the early majors in Oberlin’s newly established Neuroscience program. Always an independent thinker, Alex was engaged by this innovative program that drew on his integrative critical thinking skills and scientific imagination. Alex often scoffed at pseudoscientific writings about brain function, insisting on rigorous analysis and research-based inquiry. While at Oberlin, Alex worked on the Living Machine project housed in the Center for Environmental Studies, anexperience that solidified Alex’s passionate commitment to the environment and recycling. The Living Machine treats wastewater through a process of engineering ecology that involves microbes. He solicited “clients” for the Living Machine and worked actively in sharing knowledge regardingits system. Alex’s multifaceted experiences at Oberlinalso included living and working in Keep Co-Op and serving in various capacities such as food ordering and management for a vegan dietary plan.
After graduating from Oberlin in 2008, Alex trained in the Physician Assistant program at Miami Dade College, a highly selective and intensive two-year course of study. He was elected President of his class and received the Distinguished Science Award and the Director’s Leadership Award. He subsequently worked in the orthopedic practice of Dr. Nile Lestrange until he was hired by the Surgery Department of Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida where he had completed a clinical rotation previously.
While working full-time at Mt. Sinai and commuting daily from Ft. Lauderdale, Alex finished his Master’s degree at St. Francis University. In fulfillment of his degree requirements, he designed a website,, focused on creating a South Florida online community for the blind, their employers, advocates and friends. Since Alex’s father, Dr. Jay K. Chun, is blind, Alex was conscious from an early age of the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities.
Alex’s multiple talents ranged from building computers and miniature cars to designing artistic websites. He could be found on a weekend helping a friend install a new sound system in his car or working on repairs on his second-hand motor boat. His mechanical skills were unparalleled and he could serve as electrician or plumber, replacing wiring, sinks, and lighting. As you will also see from excerpts on this website, Alex was a fine and perceptive writer who drew on insights from literature, the arts, and sciences.In addition, he was a gifted and determined athlete who challenged himself continuously. Alex was on the Oberlin College Track Team, advanced through the ranks of Taekwando, was an avid Yoga practitioner, competed in marathons and triethlons in South Florida, and participated in competitive motorcycle track days.
Despite his success in the scientific and medical arenas, Alex often said that the thing he did best was to play the flute. On this website, you will find clips of Alex playing on days off from his job, whether at a holiday gathering with friends one year in North Carolina or at open mikes with hospital colleagues in South Florida. Still dressed in hospital scrubs after work, he can be seen improvising with passionate conviction.
Following the tragic motorcycle accident on November 7, 2015 when a driver cut across three lanes of ongoing traffic, the Surgery Department at Mt. Sinai Medical Center led by Dr. Tom Mesko, Director of Residency Programs, created the Alexander D. Chun Compassion Award. The award is designed to recognize surgical residents who displayed the compassion that Alex epitomized in his patient interactions. The first award was given on June 18, 2016 to Dr. JusharBarot. In addition, the Alexander D. Chun memorial scholarship in neuroscience has been established at Oberlin College, with preference given to a minority student majoring in neuroscience.
A two-hour service celebrating Alex’s contributions was held on November 15, 2015 and attended by over 250 people, with many tributes to Alex’s spontaneous generosity, acts of compassion and kindness, and extraordinary loving spirit. In spite of this tragic occasion, friends rose to share stories, songs, music, and testimonies that spoke to Alex’s great sense of humor, willingness to unselfishly share his second-hand cars and small house with friends, travel hundreds of miles to assist his close friend with medical school interviews, and work without remuneration on behalf of patients that needed assistance. One friend commented that Alex had a transformative power in bringing people together and affecting them positively. Many friends described in deeply moving testimonies how Alex had changed their life’s perspective, drawn attention to the meaning of life, and affected the ways they interacted with others. Hundreds of Facebook posts poured in, documenting the immense sense of loss felt by friends, colleagues, and family. Even months later, on the occasion of his birthday on April 5, 2016, friends continued to write and send emails regarding their profound sense of sadness. Subsequently, several follow upgatherings were organized by friends.
On August 21, 2016, a special memorial concert was held in Alex’s honor in the chapel at Interlochen Arts Academy. Former Interlochen friends and teachers flew from around the nation to share remembrances, perform music and read poetry in his honor. This memorial celebration will be held annually.