The Comeback Kids: Dr. John Ha

Published: Oct. 14, 2022 at 5:27 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Dr. John Ha is no stranger to the Rockford area after growing up in his dad’s tae kwon do academy. But instead of kicking moves, he’s now performing potentially lifesaving ones as a specialist at the Rockford Pain Center.

Treating pain is part of Dr. Ha’s daily routine nowadays. For many that know him, they know that wasn’t the case for the longest time. Ha says, “My father was a successful Korean military academy tae kwon do professor and he basically decided to give up his career to bring his family here for better educational purposes. It’s kind of like the classic immigrant story.”

His dad brought his family to Rockford and opened a tae kwon do school, Ha’s Tae Kwon Do Academy formerly in Carlson Ice Arena, where John attended and got involved in the community. “We did a lot of volunteer work and a lot of demonstrations for the school and park districts. We saw a lot of talented martial artists coming out of Rockford and representing the city of Rockford going to all of these national and international tournaments. I was lucky enough to be a part of it,” Ha says.

The tae kwon do champion and Harlem High School graduate eventually left the region to get his degree in medicine. During his residency at Rush University Medical Center, he developed a strong passion for pain medicine. That began his comeback journey. He reminisces saying, “My memories in Rockford are just a lot of fun with great memories. I met a lot of great people, too. When I was introduced to the medical director here at Rockford Pain Center, Dr. Dahlberg and he offered me to come to join his practice, it kind of felt like it was meant to be.”

He interviewed for jobs in places like Texas and Oklahoma but he knew deep down that home was the place to be. “It’s kind of like the trip down memory lane. Sometimes once in a while, I’ll randomly go visit my high school and just walk around with my kids. We’ll go back into the Carlson Ice Arena where our old school used to be,” Ha adds.

Dr. Ha continues to do all of this while honoring his father. He does so by carrying on a tradition in a city that gave his family so much. Ha says, “He brought his family over to Rockford and started something new. In a way, I’m kind of following in his footsteps, right? I say that because I came back to Rockford with my own family and expertise to provide something for the community. He does say he is proud of me and I’m glad I can do this.”

He continues to present pain research studies at national conferences and has already taken home several awards. Now, he’s back in the region with his wife and their two kids.