Follow the dream

HONG KONG (China Daily/ANN) - Dedication and perseverance. That’s the name of the game for a mainland dental graduate who vows to turn his private practice into one of Hong Kong’s top dental care institutions over the next eight years. And, he has defied all odds to get into the city’s ‘Lion Rock spirit’ to make the grade.

Cedric Chiu, as usual, sits in his dental care clinic every day, meticulously poring over his patients’ records before their scheduled appointments.

But, work has become very much lighter for him, having garnered enough experience and the confidence after having gone through the mill in the past couple of years when his project was still in its infancy.

Chiu’s dedication and enthusiasm for his career hasn’t moved an inch.

Born in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, Chiu had his early education on the mainland before coming to Hong Kong with his family in 1999 — just two years after the handover — making them some of the earliest immigrants from the mainland following the city’s return to the motherland.

Early life as immigrants in Hong Kong had been tough for the Chius. The biggest obstacle, perhaps, was to force themselves to adapt to a community known for its diligence, resilience and ardent determination to survive even in times of adversity — the so-called “Lion Rock” spirit.

Chiu’s parents had divorced when he was three years old, yet they’ve kept influencing his growth and personality in a variety of ways. His philosophy in life was largely influenced by his father, while her mother played an indispensable role in picking his career options. “My mother is a doctor, so I wanted to follow in her footsteps when I chose my major in university,” he says.

After sitting for his university entrance exam, Chiu’s grades were good enough to qualify him for a place in a local university, while many other students had to take up associated degree programmes to stand a second chance of getting into college.

Majoring in dentistry at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) was Chiu’s own and first choice. “My first 10 choices of subject major all had to do with medical science,” he recalls.

Chiu had once started his own clinic before, but it lasted only slightly more than a year before it folded because of differences with his business partner. “The first attempt was a flop,” he says. “We looked at things in a different light, and my partner had tried to make it too commercialised.”

Being a dentist in the SAR sounds promising with the city constantly suffering from a dearth of candidates being drawn into the profession.

According to the latest statistics from the Department of Health, there are only 2,343 registered dentists in the city. Chiu believes that in this industry, it’s very easy for a dentist to enter his comfort zone. “You have stable income, fixed working hours, and a family — everything comes as smooth as you can imagine,” he says. “And, I keep reminding myself not to ever try entering that comfort zone.”

With his first business venture having gone to the wall, Chiu found a job in a local clinic, where he met his colleague, Jack Ji, who had also graduated from HKU’s dentistry department. The two found each other like-minded. In 2013, they rented a place in Prince Edward, Kowloon, and opened their first dental clinic­ called CJ Dental Care, using the initial letters of their first names.

In the following two years, CJ Dental Care added five branches in various districts — from Tuen Mun to Hong Kong Island — and business grew.

“My three years working without a holiday had allowed me to pick up skills faster than others. Therefore, I was able to set up clinics in two years while others might take more time to do the same.”

Besides CJ Dental Care, Chiu also helped found the Hong Kong Young Dentist Federation — a non-profit making organisation aimed at helping the underprivileged in remote areas across the world to gain access to free dental care. So far, Chiu has travelled to Nepal, Thailand and the Philippines to further those goals, and extended similar services to the needy in Hong Kong, Taiwan and on the mainland.

“My philosophy is to bring good dental care experience to my patients,” Chiu says. He believes there is a perceived stereotype many people hold against dental care services.

“They may think it’s expensive, grueling, while some doctors are unconcerned about their patients,” he says. “But, I want to create an environment that patients like.”

Each year, his father would give words of advice. In 2013, he got a quote from Socrates — the unexamined life is not worth living. The next year, he got four words — know who you are. This year, he got only one word — steadiness.

“These philosophies have played a key role in shaping my mind,” Chiu says.

CJ Dental Care currently gets about 150 patients daily. And Chiu is dedicated to turning his clinic into one of Hong Kong’s leading dental care institutions over the next eight years. He has been passionate about his career and realising his dream.

“When drawing a circle with a pair of compasses, you have to pin one arm firmly to the center, that’s like holding onto your dream,” he says. “You also have to move the other arm to draw the circle, showing the efforts you make in realising it.”