Simon Shung DMD | Orthodontist at Simply Orthodontics Irvine[/caption]
On a daily basis, I hear the line, “You like looking at teeth all day!” I’ve always wondered if patients care to hear about the personal background and career path that leads to becoming an orthodontist. Here’s my story, if you’re interested…
Oddly enough, I really wanted braces when I was young, probably because it was trendy and all the cool kids had them. I was totally bummed that I had to wait to get my braces because my teeth weren’t ready until the age of twelve. I would bend paper clips and put them in my mouth so it would look like I had braces. Sad…but true. My orthodontist, Dr. Campbell, did an amazing job on my teeth, and he was the coolest, happiest, jolliest person! He worked with tools, he was fun, and he had a great staff. I knew I had to do this! I love tools, I am happy, I like having fun, and I love being around people. This was something I definitely wanted to do.
With Dr. Campbell’s inspiration, my quest to become an orthodontist began by ninth grade. I asked him, “How do I become an orthodontist?” He replied strictly, “Well, you have to be at the top of your class and have the best grades. Orthodontics is extremely difficult to get into, and you have to go to dental school first.” That is not what I expected to hear, but it didn’t change my mind…Drive on!
I graduated from Penn State with a degree in chemical engineering; it’s technological and biological, and it fulfilled all my prerequisites for dental…perfect! Chemical engineering was a tougher road than I had anticipated. I mean, what does entropy, enthalpy and fugacity have to do with teeth? Absolutely nothing (other than my life being entropic), but I did what I had to do…Drive on!
I was accepted to the University of Pittsburgh for dental school. Dental school went by in a flash. Of course, there were the pressures of making it to the top of the class so I could get into Orthodontics, but in the end I had a huge commitment to fulfill prior to my career—the Army! It was frustrating to see my friends moving into their respective specialties, but I just had to…drive on.
I joined the Army under a health profession scholarship to cover my expenses. During my second year of dental school, 9/11 changed the world and our military mentality. At Officer Candidate School, the first thing the commanding officer said was, “Ninety-eight percent of you will be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.” How scary is that!? On top of that, I was getting married after training…Drive on!
The Army taught me leadership, perseverance, respect, honor, integrity, and a whole lot about dentistry. My first year in the military was an internship in general dentistry at Fort Lewis, Washington. After that I was stationed in Korea and then moved to the Capital Region, where I was placed in the Pentagon Dental Clinic. I excelled as a dentist and leader, so the command placed me as the officer in charge of the Headquarters Marine Corps dental clinic. During my last year in the Army, my dream of becoming an orthodontist was fulfilled when I was accepted into the Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics Advanced Dental Education/Residency Program at the University of Pittsburgh…SCORE!
Orthodontics is a three-year training program in which we get certified to straighten teeth. It is a program on top of dental school which is four years. My residency exposed me to that numerous advancements, controversies, at pretty much every way to make teeth straight and fix a bite. It was an awesome experience. It is way beyond what a weekend Six Month Smiles course provides. It only increased my passion for creating great smiles and doing it the right way! So how did I end up as an orthodontist in Irvine!? My father is a professor at USC, so my family relocated to Southern California about ten years ago. My wife and I determined that Irvine—with its great people and great schools—would be a great place to raise our children! After graduation, I worked as an associate for a dental corporation before I decided to open Simply Orthodontics in Irvine. My associateship allowed me to treat tons of cases. I’ve been exposed to the good and bad of capitalistic health care, and it is scary for the layperson. I always a dream of having my own practice and patients to care for since dental school. It took me ELEVEN years before I took a massive leap of faith. Every colleague was telling me “Irvine is a competitive market, it’s financial suicide, don’t do it” but a perfect space corner space opened in the Town Center and it called my name. It wasn’t easy in that we all know the Irvine Company has a lot of rules. To get approved to even be IN the Town Center was a HUGE challenge that I couldd not imagine. To be affiliated with the elite Irvine Company, a new business needs to be approved. Fortunately, the Irvine Company liking my vision and proposal, approved me! There was no turning back. The risk was great, the rent was greater…Drive on!
I opened Simply Orthodontics in Irvine so I could have the freedom to treat people how they should be treated and more! My passion is people. Straightening teeth is one thing, but making someone smile by giving a child a Disney sticker, referring someone to a good dentist, listening to a life story, and building relationships is my true joy, as cheesy as it sounds. Simply Orthodontics in Irvine was also created to be an asset to the community; supporting PTAs, sports teams, and local organizations is a dream for me. I plopped us in the middle of Woodbury, rather than a medical plaza, so we could be a part of the community. Our success leads to the betterment of the community. I have the luxury of meeting a variety of people on a daily basis, which is amazing. (My teen patients keep me young!) Where I am at is the scariest thing for me, and with five kids it’s not easy! Fortunately, I love and am good at what I do…Drive on!!