Colorado Springs Dermatology Practice Determined to Make a Positive Impact | Business

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For Dr. Vinh Chung and the 100 or so employees of Vanguard Skin Specialists, it’s all about the mission.

“We are a mission-driven practice,” says Leisle Chung, wife of Vinh Chung and co-founder of the Colorado Springs-based dermatology practice. “Our mission is to have a positive impact on our patients, our community and our world.”

This mission is accomplished in many ways, according to the couple, ranging from treating patients and family to expanding into underserved areas to tackling the horror of sex trafficking in Cambodia.

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His job, says Vinh, “has to mean more than a salary.”

It is a philosophy driven by faith, by sacrifice, by gratitude.

“We’ve all been blessed – each of us – and we’re all meant to give back,” he wrote in his memoir, “Where the Winds Lead”.

Humble beginnings

The incredible story of his family is told in these memoirs, and has also been told in The Gazette before. How Vinh was born in Vietnam shortly after the fall of Saigon to the Communists. How his father, a powerful businessman, was stripped of his fortune. How in 1979, when Vinh was three and a half years old, the family took a treacherous trip to escape with other “boat people”, before being attacked by pirates and rejected by Malaysia. How they were rescued by World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, and ultimately made their home in the United States.

Vinh grew up in Fort Smith, Ark., One of 11 children. His father supported them by taking blue collar jobs, far from the prestige he had at the head of an empire of rice mills in his country of origin.

Leisle, whose family immigrated from South Korea, also grew up in Arkansas. (Their family story is told in the movie “Minari,” written and directed by her brother, Lee Isaac Chung.) She and Vinh met during a summer college program called Arkansas Governor’s School.

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Both high achievers, Leisle went to Yale University while Vinh attended Harvard. He was aiming for a career in medicine, partly driven by his father, who himself had dreamed of being a doctor. Dermatology became his focus when he was skipping classes one day – “it was a boring lecture,” he recalls – and stumbled across a skin cancer surgeon’s clinic.

“I was addicted,” he says. He then received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and became a scholarship-trained Mohs surgeon. (Mohs is a precise surgical technique used to treat skin cancer.) Vinh also holds an MA in Divinity from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Vinh and Leisle got married in 1998. They conducted, as Vinh calls it, a “systematic search” for a place where they wanted to raise their family – they now have four children – and Colorado Springs came out on top. list.

The idea was for Vinh to join an existing practice.

“He really contacted everyone just to see what he could find,” says Leisle. It was on Thanksgiving Day that he got a call from a firm he was anxious to work for, she said, and learned that they had gone with someone else.

“I could just see the disappointment on his face,” she recalls. “That night after dinner I turned to him – we had never really talked about this – and told him what if I took six months off my job and I’ll help you start a practice. He thought about it. for about five seconds, and he said ‘OK’ and that was it. “

It was a modest start. They started Vanguard by subleasing space to another dermatologist; they had three examination rooms and shared a waiting room. But in 12 years, Vanguard has seen breathtaking growth. The practice now has three Springs locations and offices in Woodland Park, Pueblo, Castle Rock and Canon City; it is opening offices this month in La Junta and Parker. And Leisle, CEO of Vanguard, never returned to her old job.

The growth was not the result of a master plan, says Leisle. “I thought, and Vinh thought too, that we were setting up a solo doctor’s office.” But as Vinh got busier and busier – opening clinics on Saturdays, working evenings – they added providers and locations to meet demand.

“Doctors have always been selected and taught to think that we have to be the best,” says Vinh. “But the most powerful thing I’ve learned running a medical practice is what you want, it’s the best team.”

By adding to his team, he has sought to attract those who are drawn to Vanguard’s mission and culture, which Vinh described as “a living, breathing thing defined by values ​​- integrity, humility, excellence. Once you clarify and live your culture, you attract others with the same values. “

“One of the accomplishments I’m most proud of,” says Leisle, “is that we’ve been named one of the best places to work in Colorado Springs and the state of Colorado.

All in the family

Vinh Chung is not the only member of his family to be influenced by his father’s dream of becoming a doctor. Five brothers have chosen health-related fields: one is a family doctor and two are optometrists. Brother Toan (pronounced “Twon”) is a dentist whose practice, Apple Grove Dental and Orthodontics, is located in the same building as Vanguard’s offices in Briargate. Brother Isaac, the youngest of the family, is an orthodontist who practices largely at Adventure Dental, Vision and Orthodontics in Aurora but also works one day a week with Toan.

Starting in pre-med, “there was encouragement from my family,” says Toan, “but no pressure. He (his father) knew that doctors were important to society, and he wanted us to be part of it. “

Ultimately, he says, he felt that being a doctor was not his calling, but dentistry seemed like “a fun challenge.” He enjoys being able to relieve patient pain, the “artistic side” of dentistry and the chance to work with his hands. Besides, he makes guitars, which is aimed at another passion, music. “My dream,” he admits, “was to be a rock star.”

Isaac is known as Du (pronounced “you”), his first name, in his brother’s memories. He changed his name during his dental studies, believing that patients would have a hard time understanding his Vietnamese name. “When you look at how my name is spelled,” he says, “it wouldn’t make sense to English speakers.”

He also started in pre-med; he was influenced by Toan when he continued his studies in dentistry and by his own experiences as a teenager when he decided to opt for orthodontics.

“I had terrible teeth,” he says. “My smile was not what I have now.” He has gained confidence through that enhanced smile, he says, and enjoys helping others gain similar confidence.

The three brothers say they enjoy being able to spend time together and are also hoping to attract some of the others to Colorado.

“It’s great,” Toan says when asked what it’s like to work with one brother and be right in front of another. “We have good mutual respect. We even work on each other.”

The three brothers all share a passion for giving back. All retail profits from Clara, Vanguard’s skin care line, are donated to charities that help women and children. (Clara, meaning “light,” is named after Vinh and Leisle’s daughter.) Apple Grove Dental helps support World Vision’s humanitarian efforts, and Isaac sits on the dental advisory board of Project Worthmore, a non-profit organization. Colorado-based profit-maker who works to help refugees.

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Sometimes the three also share patients. “When they go to see Toan and Isaac,” Vinh said of his patients, “I tell my brothers, if they don’t treat them well, I’ll tell mom.”

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