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Stories of the human spirit never cease to amaze.  As Chair of the Oral Clinical Exam, one of my fondest duties is taking calls from Candidates.  Consequently, I hear a lot of stories.  When I received the call about Dr. Grace Lim, I knew her story was something special.

Grace was born in 1981 in Seoul, Korea, followed soon by a sister, Joanne, and then a brother, George. Grace’s father worked for Hyundai in Southern California for four years.  Realizing greater opportunities for their children in America, David and Joyce Lim moved their young family to Los Angeles when Grace was four.

Grace quickly assimilated into American culture, while still retaining her Korean heritage.  Even at a young age, Grace was responsible, patient and nurturing.  Since both parents worked tirelessly, Grace gradually assumed the role of house leader.  She cared not only for her two younger siblings, but also her parents.  She performed in that role so masterfully, that her younger siblings would oftentimes turn to Grace when they needed guidance and support.  As adults, they would continue to seek her advice on a wide range of issues, from career paths to appropriate dating etiquette.

Grace’s parents stressed the value of a strong work ethic and perseverance.  Even after a long day at work, they would spend time reviewing their children’s homework.  But it wasn’t all about the work.  After a long night of studying, they would lovingly reward their children with a late-night trip to Denny’s, where the Lim children and the Denny’s night-shift chatted on a “first-name” basis.  The lesson in hard work hit the mark.  Grace became a Pediatric Dentist, Joanne a Pharmacist, and George an Emergency Room Physician.

Always a bright and talented student, Grace completed the accelerated dental program at the University of the Pacific.  After completing a Dental General Practice Residency, she pursued pediatric dental training at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.  Amidst the rigors of dental school, Grace found her one, true love, Raymond Chan, also a dental student.  They married after Grace’s first year of pediatric dental training.  Ray stayed with his practice in California, while Grace completed her program.  After graduating, she rejoined Ray and practiced pediatric dentistry in Central California.  She quickly won over the hearts of her patients, their parents and her co-workers.

In 2014, Grace successfully challenged the Qualifying Exam.  She received the Pugh Award, given to the top 3%.  In September 2015, she took the Oral Clinical Exam.  Two weeks later, she tragically and unexpectedly passed away from an aggressive form of leukemia.  Grace never knew that she had passed the oral exam.

Grace had a profound influence on everyone around her.  She always put herself last, building relationships on trust, generosity and self-less love.  Following her death, Pacific Dental Services created the Grace Lim Award to memorialize her life, both as a person and a pediatric dentist.  This award is presented annually to the doctor who best exemplifies “compassion, devotion, sacrifice, commitment, patient safety and clinical excellence to others”.

Cancer is a formidable foe.  How does a person battling for her life, summon the strength to prepare for the Oral Clinical Exam? That’s not covered in our Operations Manual.  Dr. Lim took the value of board certification to a level that most of us can never comprehend. She simply went about her business with the same quiet resolve and compassion that defined her life…truly a story of Grace.

Pediatric Dentistry Today, May 2016
Jeffrey C. Mabry, DDS, MS 
Director, ABPD
San Antonio, TX
Board Certified in 1991