Northwest Asian Weekly
Dat Giap loved sciences in high school. He thought he wanted to be an electrical engineer “when I grow up,”… but it was not until his first year in college, that he realized his weakness. He did fine in everything, but he had some troubles with physics, in figuring out how to work with electrical currents, fluid movement, etc. He could memorize formulas and calculate the voltage or the amperes of tubes, but they were…abstract.
He preferred chemistry and biology, so he decided to go into the health professions. The choice was simple, almost by default: since his oldest brother went to medical school, he decided he then would go to dental school.
Giap was born in Hanoi in 1952, in a large family, with a sister and five brothers. In 1954, after the Geneva convention accord was signed, his family moved south. Giap’s family lost almost everything, and had to start all over again. He felt pressure to work harder since his dad worked for the government, and the family had to move every two or three years to a different province or city. He felt he always had to do better in his new classes (if not being the best) due to being the son of the province chief/deputy chief.
The biggest event in Giap’s life happened in 1975. He got a draft deferral from military service to go to dental school and upon graduation, he was drafted to serve in the RVN armed forces. The war was over in a bitter way and he became a stateless person. Fresh out of dental school, he came to the United Stated as a refugee and he felt he had to start his life all over again just like his parents did in 1954. He was admitted to the University of Alabama School of Dentistry in 1978 and graduated in 1981. He worked for a year in Houston, and six years in New Orleans where he met his future wife when she did her residency at LSU medical center. They were married in 1988 and moved to Seattle.
They decided on Seattle because of the moderate weather and its good school system, and from what they heard from friends, the city would be a good place to start a family.
Looking back, Giap feels the last 26 years has been a blessing. He has a family with two kids; his son Chris, 22, just graduated from University of Washington with a degree in accounting, and his daughter Veronica, now 17, is a senior at Bellevue High School.
“My wife and I feel blessed to be in the health professions so we can help people with our skills,” Giap says. “It’s always the appreciation, the smiles, and the few words from the people’s hearts that make our days.”
Giap also provides community service working with senior citizens and the homeless. Working for the UGM dental clinic for the homeless, he worked with a pastor who was a drug addict: he lost his job, his house, his wife, and his family. “He went through his struggles and helped himself stay clean and for the last 10 years and now works for Boeing.” Giap recounts. “If we could work hard to help these homeless people and have just one case like this every year, every two years, or even every five or 10 years, then our efforts are all worth it.”
His advice as a dentist? Having regular dental check-ups, brushings and flossing your teeth right after eating will help prevent tooth decay and gum problems. Also inform your dentists of any change in your medical history will help them serve you better.
“Your dentists want to be your friends and want to see you in happy times, not when you are in severe pain or swelling,” he says. He advises to wear mouth guards if you play sports and if you feel something is not “right”, please call your dentist immediately, “ and your dentists and their staff will be more than happy to see you now, rather than later, before the problem becomes bigger and more complicated.” (end)
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