I’d like to share with you what I’ve done, where I came from, and what I’m doing now in this online biography. Let’s get the formal qualifications out of the way, first:
– Doctor of Dental Surgery, Loma Linda University 2002 – Bachelor of Sciences, Biology, UC Irvine, 1997 – Dentist, Saddleback Local Peace, Independencia, Mexico, 2004-2008 – Asst Adj Professor, Loma Linda University, Dental Education Services, 2003-2005
Private Practice Dentistry, 2002 – present
Assistant Adjunct Professor, Loma Linda University School of Dentistry, 2003-2005
Doctor of Dental Surgery, Loma Linda University School of Dentistry, 2002
American Dental Association Member since 1998
California Dental Association Member since 1998
Bachelor of Sciences, Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine, 1997
Diploma, Capistrano Valley High School, Mission Viejo, 1993
How It All Started
I was born in February of 1975 in Saigon, Vietnam. Saigon was to fall to the Communists less than three months later. On that fateful day, my parents took a three-month old baby, a couple hundred dollars, and some baby formula onto a US Navy barge. They left everything behind, for a foreign country on the other side of the ocean and the other side of the world.
The Saigon hospital where I was born
A Little Bit of God, or a Whole Lot of Luck
We were Vietnam war refugees. The army took us to Guam, then Fort Chafee. A local church, San Juan Capistrano Presbyterian, sponsored our family and got us a small apartment in San Clemente. My dad started out as a dishwasher. My mom sewed clothes for years. We had a lot of help from local church members, driving us, teaching us english, and giving us clothes. A few years later, my parents had learned English, had good jobs, and a house. Depending on how you see the world, either there was a little bit of God, or a whole lot of luck involved.
Learning the Language
We moved to Mission Viejo with my uncle’s family sometime before I was 4. My first language was, naturally, Vietnamese. I entered preschool knowing only one English word: “No.” Fortunately, I learned English very quickly. By 1st or 2nd grade, Vietnamese became my second language…now I speak English like an American, and Vietnamese like, well, an American.
Family Christmas, 1981
I graduated with honors from Capistrano Valley High School in 1993, then UC Irvine (BS in Biology) in 1997. I learned lots of facts, some useful, some not. Somewhere in there I figured out that I was a nerd. I got involved in youth leadership when my core group leader, Bob Hull, said “You know a lot of Bible, you should be an assistant (core group leader).” That was the beginning of over a dozen years in youth ministry. It was also during this time period that I discovered what still are my favorite hobbies: photography, web site design, music, snowboarding, skating and cycling.
My dental school volleyball team, the Soup Nazis, 1998 from left: Ron, Vu (me), Liza, Dennis, Mary, Glenn
Loma Linda University School of Dentistry was really where everything started to come together. Lots of long hard hours with the same class of 90 people for four years, and you get very close. After 12 years of schooling, I finally figured out how to be popular and even got elected as student council treasurer. It was four years where I worked hard and played hard. I also had the unique honor of my life-size picture permanently mounted to the main lecture hall…with a mask on my face Four years later, I was a volunteer faculty member at LLUSD, taking dental students on trips to do their first fillings and extractions.
Me, my grandparents, aunt Grace, and parents in front of my portrait in the main lecture hall at Loma Linda.
Back to Basics
I spent my journeyman years being a dentist in far off places like Valencia and Crestline. I would always come home to visit family and friends on weekends. After some hard life lessons, and 60,000 miles on my three year old car, I decided that it was time to put down roots. I moved back home, and started regularly attending Saddleback Church. As I started to get more involved, (that’s me below on a Mexico mission trip) I knew that I had found my niche here in South Orange County. After an exhaustive search, I ended up opening an office just a few minutes from where I grew up all these years. Sometimes things do come around full circle.
One of many clinic teams we took to Independencia in the Baja California area of Mexico.
What I’m Up to Now
I married my lovely wife, Catherine, in 2009. Yes, I think she’s very pretty, too. Our honeymoon was my first two week vacation in four years. Hopefully, it won’t be our last. After a year of house searching, we now live in nearby Trabuco Canyon.
If you attend Saddleback Church, you might have seen me playing guitar at the former Ohana venue, on a mission trip with Health Care ministry, or on assignment with PICS. I teach a couple times a year for the Photography Basics group at Saddleback. One thing I’ve learned…the campus only seems large. As you get to know people over the years, it’s hard to visit on the weekends without bumping into someone you know. Maybe someday it will be you
But most of the time, the two of us have been very, very busy taking care of our two precious little children. These days, I tell folks my life is “Work, kids, repeat.” Gretchen Rubin said it better than most: “The days are long, but the years are short.” As hard as I may work on quality dentistry, it’s even harder work building a good family. As any parent will tell you, kids and family bring the best joy you can have. No matter how hard of a day I have at the office, there’s nothing like your wife, son or daughter bringing a smile to your face.
The Le Family. Photo by Tommy Huynh
That’s my story for now. Thanks for reading. If I haven’t met you already, I hope I get the chance to do so soon!