Dr. Huy Dang of Foot and Ankle Surgical Associates is a humble and soft-spoken man. Beneath is a giving heart combined with unstoppable determination and perseverance – traits passed down from his parents.
Born in Vietnam, the family immigrated to the United States when he was very young. “I remember being on a boat in the middle of the night and all the kids were drugged to keep them quiet,” he says.
They set out to sea not really knowing where they were going. The journey to safety was fraught with tropical storms and insufficient food. People died onboard and their bodies had to be pushed into the sea. Dr. Dang recalls picking wood off the boat to eat.
Eventually, the family landed in a refugee camp. After six months, he contracted dysentery. His mom sold her mother’s wedding ring so the family could get a couple apples to eat. “They sacrificed a lot of their food and medicine for me,” says Dr. Dang.
Life in the United States was burdened by other challenges. His father, a neurosurgeon in Vietnam, had to start his education all over again to become a doctor here and help support the family. “When we came here, we cleaned houses,” says Dr. Dang. His dad would stand outside the hardware store every day looking for work. When his sister was born in Chicago, their house had no heat – ice would form in her crib. “We didn’t have much, but we were happy,” Dr. Dang says. “That is where I learned my work ethic and to always help someone when you could.”
Medicine was a natural choice, considering his father’s profession and his mother’s, a nurse. Dr. Dang enjoys podiatry because he can interact with his patients. “You want the best things for your patients,” he says. “Podiatry allows that. We really want to work with people and their lives. That’s important in medicine. You start learning to choose good patients. Even if surgery is the best choice on the x-ray, it may not be the best option for the person as an individual. You have to understand your patient and what is the driving force in their lives.” From toenail removal to extensive foot surgery, “if it’s below the knee – we can do it,” Dr. Dang says.
He stresses that preventative medicine is key. “I won’t have to do reconstruction on a thirty-five-year-old if I can help them when they are kids,” says Dr. Dang.
There was once a misconception that kids would outgrow some things. Now Dr. Dang sees complications from that mistake in adulthood. “That’s why I like to gear my practice towards those preventative cases before I cannot do anything else besides surgically fix them,” he says. “It’s a difficult process, to help people understand we can make their lives better earlier on.”
There is currently a paradigm shift at Foot and Ankle Surgical Associates; regenerative medicine with grafts and treatments are healing ulcers and other chronic problems. “We are getting people healed,” Dr. Dang shares. “These people are going to the doctor weekly for multiple years thinking they would eventually lose that part of their bodies. In a few months, they can walk, do things and not have to see a doctor every week. It opens a whole new part of their lives.”
Using these techniques, Dr. Dang can help people live better and avoid surgery. “It’s no longer trying to put a Band-Aid on the problem, but actually fix the problem so they’re not seeing us over and over again,” he says.
When not practicing medicine, Dr. Dang appreciates the outdoors here in the Pacific Northwest. “You have the mountains, the sea, lakes and it’s all within hours of each other,” he says. “And the weather, with minimal temperature variations; I’ve done kayaking and sledding on the same day which you can’t do in other parts of the country.”
He also enjoys his pets, friends and working with various charities. He plans to take part in a medical mission with Foot and Ankle Surgical Associates in the future. “The added plus of podiatry is I get a life outside of work, which is pretty rare in medicine these days,” he says.
Dr. Dang truly loves improving other’s lives and is grateful for his own life of opportunity. “You give what you can give and live simplistically,” he says. “I feel fortunate I have a job now where I can help people.”
He speaks of the perseverance of the human spirit in all circumstances. “You don’t quit if you have something that you really want to do. These are things that I carry on now. I look at other things in the rest of the world, and my life has not been bad. Our first world problems are very, very minimal.”