Vanguard celebrates its 10 year anniversary this month. Dr. Vinh Chung shares the story of how Vanguard began.
I often say that Vanguard Skin Specialists began with a failure. After 10 years of moving all over the world, my wife and I wanted to find a place we could settle, put down roots, and raise our family. When we visited Colorado Springs, we knew this was the place. It had everything we were looking for – stunning scenery, outdoor activities, excellent public schools, and wonderful people. I applied to every job opening and called every practice in town. I was either ignored or rejected. So here I was, after 15 years of training, no one in Colorado Springs wanted me to join them. I felt like a failure because I couldn’t find a job to support my family. It is out of this failure that Vanguard Skin Specialists came to life.
I had no idea how to start, run, or build a business, but necessity has a funny way expediting the learning process. I read books, visited websites, and spoke with dozens of gracious and generous people who shared with me their experiences. Without the help of my wife, Leisle, I could have never pulled it off. She has a background in business and had to explain to me the very basic anatomy of a business. She still does it today!
We were still living in Atlanta, where I was completing my Mohs fellowship, so every bit of Vanguard Skin Specialists was being designed and created across the country during 30-minute lunch breaks, in the early mornings or late evenings, and on the weekends. Leisle and I created our “new baby” while juggling 2 full-time jobs and 2 kids. On the last day in Atlanta, we loaded up the U-Haul and drove 1,454 miles to meet our newest baby—Vanguard Skin Specialists! Along the way, we dropped off our 2 boys in Arkansas to stay with their grandparents for a month. Leisle and I knew that a new business is like a vulnerable infant who requires 24/7 meticulous attention. We saw our first patient on July 3, 2009, exactly one week after we left Atlanta with a U-Haul.
Vanguard Skin Specialists was started because I needed a job. Over the years, it has become much more than that. We save lives through treating skin cancers, often taking care of vulnerable populations in underserved communities. Through volunteer hours and financial grants, we give generously to organizations across Southern Colorado, in Cambodia, in Rwanda, and in Haiti. Working here has given me more deep personal satisfaction than any job I could have dreamt of 10 years ago. The amazing patients and staff members at Vanguard have truly become part of my family. And it is all possible because my wife did not allow me to give up in the face of failure.
As I look forward to the rest of my career, I commit to dare greatly. As Theodore Roosevelt said “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.” Vanguard invites only the courageous to join our tribe. It is not a place for timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. If we succeed, we will taste triumph. If we fail, we will at least fail while daring greatly.
Dr. Vinh Chung founded Vanguard in 2009 after completing college at Harvard, an M.Th. at the University of Edinburgh, M.Pharm.Sci. at the University of Sydney, and his medical degree at Harvard Medical School. He is a board certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon. His best selling memoir Where the Wind Leads tells his dramatic life story.