Did you know we featured real medical professionals in our Classics campaign? Now we’re giving you the opportunity to learn more about each of these amazing individuals. Get to know Andrew V.
First off, tell us a little bit about you.
I’m 30 years old and was born and raised in Huntington Beach, California. I went to UC Irvine and dental school at USC. I was recently accepted into a 2-year residency program at The Ohio State University specializing in pediatric dentistry and will also get my Master’s degree in dental sciences.
Why did you become a dentist?
One of my friends was at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at USC and said, “You like to give back, why don’t you come check out what we do as dental students and dentists?” I volunteered one Saturday morning at Ayuda International, which gave free dental care to kids every Saturday (and parents if there was time), treating their one most effective tooth. I saw everyone coming together, creating an event and giving back a service, and truly helping people. That’s what really sparked me to become a dentist—having the possibilities of giving back something more, seeing people’s lives change right before my eyes because they came in with pain and would leave without it. I eventually volunteered every single month as a pre-dental student.
How did you further your education?
When I was applying to dental school, I also applied for the United States Army Health Professional Scholarship Program—they pay for 3 years, and you give back 3 years as a dentist after graduating. I went on many different mission trips—Columbia, Guatemala, Mexico. I wanted to further my education and chose a 1-year residency program in advanced education for more fine tuning.
You’re very involved in volunteering. Can you tell us more about that?
I’ve always been involved in student government and events. I was student body president and yearbook president in high school. But in middle school I had no friends. I was overweight—all the stories you’ve heard, I’ve gone through that. I prayed to be popular, grow taller, become handsome, become smart. I was in special education when I was growing up—my parents are from Vietnam, so I learned Vietnamese and English and needed speech pathology. Towards high school, things changed—I made a promise that I would always help those who are struggling because I know how it feels. In high school, I was really nice and people started recognizing that. Things changed for me and I started getting involved in activities.
In college I was involved in student government as well, and I wanted to create something cool and make an impact. During my sophomore year, I became the spirits commissioner. I created an organization, had a great team of 22 students and created Care-A-Thon—a dance marathon and carnival to raise money for neonatal care units. Fast forward 10, 11 years and it’s still going on—and we’ve raised over $300,000 to help local hospitals assist infants and their families in the NICU.
Why did you shift toward pediatric dentistry?
Everything I did pertained to kids. I understand it can be scary for them. For example, I helped create free dental care for Ronald Mcdonald House in LA. I started getting into the cosmetic side of doing crowns and veneers, and I loved seeing people’s lives change, but I forgot how it felt to work with kids. I went to Honduras on a mission trip this year and only provided treatment for kids.
I want to create an organization where I can create possibilities for kids. After residency, I want to create practices and the opportunity for me to serve others and pay for my staff members and the community who wants to become involved to serve our mission trips. I want to become a great pediatric dentist but create the opportunities for others to serve, like doing an annual trip to give back to third world countries. For me to take care of all those expenses for my employees and ignite their fire of why they started is what I want to do.
Money can always come, but it always comes back to that promise I made of how I can help and be of service. What’s the most rewarding—a really nice car or truly helping someone?
What does a typical day look like for you (if there even is one)?
What’s hard about my situation is that I’m only back in the OC and LA on the weekends and there’s so much to do. That’s where it’s challenging—I need to do so much because I’m not there on the weekdays. I drive at 4am and get into the office at 7am, I work Monday through Thursday. Wednesday night I drive back to LA. I teach spin classes in LA and the OC on Thursdays and Fridays. A lot of commuting back and forth.
Instead of packing so many different items into a day, I figure out what the things are that I want to do. I do a lot in the mornings so I don’t overbook myself too much. After 4pm, I’m usually open.
I live my life off Google Calendar. Everything goes into it. That’s how I keep everything squared away, and I always have a checklist. It’s self planning. I’m very adaptable and can reschedule or move things around, but something I’m working on is living in the moment—letting go and seeing what the day brings, going with the flow. But that stresses me out!
How about when you’re not at work? How do you spend your time?
I teach spin classes back home—I’m affiliated with Equinox and GritCycle. Another hobby is cosmetic dentistry. I’m moonlighting a few days a week and work out of an office in Newport Beach.
What advice would you give to an aspiring dentist?
- Believe in yourself. Know that you’re worth it and that you’re good enough. There’s so much pressure—you ARE good enough. You deserve to do it, and you’re doing it for the right reasons—and your dreams will come true.
- Be resilient.
- Becoming a nurse, doctor, whatever it may be, keep going. Even if you fail and are rejected a couple times, keep striving forward—you will get in. keep believing in yourself even if people doubt you.
Do you have any regrets at work, or something you’d do over?
Nothing I truly regret—I did everything I wanted to do! But I would want to improve on slowing down a lot, which is advice I try to give myself now.
Also, focusing on people that matter. I always thought I wanted to be friends with everyone, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. Your close friends are the ones who matter most. I always say this in spin class—focus on things and people who matter and will be there for you.
What’s something about the medical profession that they DON’T tell you when you’re in school? What surprised you the most?
There’s a lot of textbook versus reality. That was a big culture shock for me. Like HIV—you learn all these things about it, how hard it is to cure. But in school, you don’t know about the prevention or meet people who have it. Breaking stereotypes is very important to further educate yourself and understand what people are going through. Learning about people who have a disease, instead of “they have this and this is who they are.”
I was the team captain for Team Outserve, which was the first military team for the AIDS/LifeCycle ride. All the branches and services joined our team. When I did that, it was to meet people who had HIV and were affected. How could I break the stereotype so we could bring it back to the military and educate other providers about who was affected? I’ve learned a lot about HIV and prevention, including PREP.
Education is very important. You can learn about medication and diseases through textbooks, but you have to integrate your knowledge with reality. You have to put yourself outside your comfort zone—and that’s not taught in a textbook. Understanding the science behind it and understanding people. That was a big disconnect.
How have you grown personally and professionally?
When you are who you are—and you’re comfortable with who you are—people like you more. The more true I was to myself, it made people realize what they think they knew, they didn’t. You change the perspective of being who you are and you inspire others to do the same.
Teaching spin, especially at GritCycle where every class is 55 people, or every class at Equinox that’s sold out. The more I embrace who I am—a gay, strong man who is successful—seeing a different aspect makes people change. You have to live who you are and not live in a lie. Doing that breaks the stereotype of what people don’t know. The more you’re proud of who you are, the more you can inspire others and live your life to the fullest.
You’re one of our team members for our new Classics collection. What do you think about these scrubs?
I love them! I think they’re very soft, very wearable, very clean cut. I like everything about them!
I think Classics fit very well. When people come in, they think they’re really nice! I’ve gotten so many compliments. The colors are very vibrant—the Royal Blue really pops out.
I use my joggers to go out—I just change to a different shirt. People think they’re really cool!
How did it feel being part of this campaign?
I met a lot of really cool people. I understand that Jaanuu cares about the product. Everyone went out of their way to make me feel like I’m family.
That’s something I always look for in purchasing any type of medical scrubs or anything that represents my brand, anything that represents me as a provider—a company who supports one another and gives back. That makes Jaanuu stand out a lot from other providers.
Follow Andrew: @andrewvo_