Episode 153

Dagny Zhu ·  Learning to Succeed in Ophthalmic Practice

“So many doctors are on social media now because we know the importance of vetting accurate information battling misinformation.”

Dr. Zhu is a Harvard-educated, board-certified ophthalmologist who specializes in cornea, cataract, and refractive surgery. She is owner and Medical Director of Hyperspeed LASIK (an NVISION Eye Centers company) in Rowland Heights, California  As a key opinion leader in advanced laser vision correction and premium cataract surgery, Dr. Zhu serves as a medical advisor to multiple ophthalmic companies and has been featured in over 200 lectures, presentations, publications, and press features, including The Today Show, Huffington Post, InStyle, Yahoo News, NBC News, and CNN.


Notably, Dr. Zhu has garnered a large social media presence as a podcast co-host and healthcare influencer (50k+ followers on Instagram @DZEyeMD), where she promotes health and science, champions for women and people of color, and provides inspiration and mentorship to the next generation.


Social media handles:

Instagram: @DZEyeMD

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Podcast Transcript

Dr. Dagny Zhu

Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, my name is Bryan and my name is Maggie. We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

Maggie: (00:00:23)  Welcome to the Asian Hustle Network podcast today, we have a very special guest with us her name is Dagny Zhu. Dr. Zhu is a Harvard-educated, board-certified ophthalmologist who specializes in cornea, cataract, and refractive surgery. She is the owner and Medical Director of Hyperspeed LASIK (an NVISION Eye Centers company) in Rowland Heights, California  As a key opinion leader in advanced laser vision correction and premium cataract surgery, Dr. Zhu serves as a medical advisor to multiple ophthalmic companies and has been featured in over 200 lectures, presentations, publications, and press features, including The Today Show, Huffington Post, InStyle, Yahoo News, NBC News, and CNN.

Notably, Dr. Zhu has garnered a large social media presence as a podcast co-host and healthcare influencer (50k+ followers on Instagram @DZEyeMD), where she promotes health and science, champions for women and people of color, and provides inspiration and mentorship to the next generation. Dr. Dagny Zhu welcome to the show.

Dagny: (00:01:28) Hey, thank you Bryan and Maggie for having me on it is such an honor to be here.

Bryan: (00:01:34) Of course, I feel like it’s been a long time for us to have you on the show! So, Dagny take it away. Tell us about your upbringing and what was it like.

Dagny: (00:01:45) Yeah, thank you guys so much. I love sharing this perspective from like a medical background because I feel like you guys have so many awesome entrepreneurs and all this is a cool field. I feel a little boring coming from the medical side, but there are more of us doctors now who are being more entrepreneurial, putting ourselves out there and starting our practices and things like that.

My background is probably similar to a lot of the Asian Americans here in the US I mean, I’m an immigrant of the first generation. I was born in Shanghai, China, and then my parents wanted to come here for higher education. So, we moved to California when I was about three years old and my dad got his master’s degree.

And I still don’t know what he does, like software engineering or it, but unfortunately, as we were finally getting our feet on the ground it was pretty hard growing up fairs. Many of, we were living out of people’s houses, not having our place. I was sleeping on the floor.

I remember being home alone, like at the age of three or four, as my parents were working and studying, my mom was like ratios in Chinese restaurants almost every night on the weekend. But so as soon as we finally got our feet on the ground, unfortunately, my parents got divorced. My dad kind of left us.

My mom and I were kind of just left on our own and my mom was the one who didn’t have much of that educational background. She didn’t know how to speak English and so literally it was just me and her as her only child and kind of trying to find our way and so came from very humble beginnings that I think just watching her teach herself English by going to adult school at night after working. 

Eventually, she earned her certificate in bookkeeping so she can stop waitressing and do an office job. And so, she spent more time with me, and then she was just very savvy with money, like investing, investing in five to nine, and like mutual funds without knowing much about the English language.

I was always impressed with her financial savvy but eventually, we were able to buy a home when I was in high school and it kind of felt like we reached the American dream. And so just watching her go through all that. I felt that work ethic. And so, in my school and my studies, I always want to do my best so that I could elevate us and get us to a better place.

And I think that’s just the internal drive that pushes a lot of us immigrants. So, I was very fortunate to be able to do well. And I studied and have the opportunity to go to medical school and become a doctor. And it’s kind of crazy now because it’s a full circle. I bought a practice in my hometown in Rowland Heights where I grew up.

So, it’s down the street from the high school I went to from the home that we bought when I was in high school. And my mom still brings me lunch here because she lives right around the corner. So, she’s super proud and also happy that I’ve stayed close to home. So that’s a little bit about my upbringing and where I came from. Never thought that I’d be in this position today.

Maggie: (00:04:37) Oh, wow. Oh, my goodness. I mean, just hearing that story, really tugs on my heartstrings. It seems like you look up to your mom a lot and she started caring and being a good example for you. Just, although our parents, a lot of our parents, you know, immigrants, had nothing on their backs.

They just really came here, not knowing the language, not knowing anything, but hustling to get to where they are doing everything that they can to learn a new language and just be able to feed the family, and provide for the family. And it seems like your mom did everything in that field. And I want to know, because you went into medicine, it seems like you wanted to show your mom that you wanted to like to support her and return the favor to her. Tell us your passion for medicine and why you chose eyecare specifically as your specialty.

Dagny: (00:05:22) I feel like our parents are immigrant parents are like the original hustlers and a lot of us have kind of tiger moms or tiger parents’ kind of push us into medicine, right but honestly, my mom is like the anti-tiger mom.

She never pushed me to do anything. She always just had my happiness in mind. Honestly. I’ve always said that she would be happy if I just took a regular nine to five office job. Seeing me go through training and coming back late and be on call and going off to emergency surgeries. It actually like really broke her heart sometimes.

And she’d just be like, why are you a doctor? Why are you working so hard? Why can’t you just like, take an easier job, enjoy your life more, which is the opposite of what most tiger parents would say. So really, I chose this path more for myself. Like I’ve always been passionate about science and making a difference in people’s lives.

And I feel like initially when I wanted to go into medicine, you explore all your different options. And I felt like I wanted to do something surgical because surgery is where you’d make the biggest impact on people’s lives in the shortest amount of time. Like they have a problem and you can fix it with your hands.

And it’s a little different from other fields in medicine, like family medicine, internal medicine, where your kind of just monitoring like chronic problems that unfortunately we don’t have a cure for it, but surgery provided that like immediate satisfaction. And so, I turned to ophthalmology because not only was it a surgical field, but it’s such a beautiful surgical field, like the surgeries that we do inside these tiny 12-millimeter eyeballs.

It’s like doing art inside the eye. And I feel so privileged every day with like 10-minute 20-minute LASIK surgery habits. Do I make a change in people’s quality of life? Like the next day or even right then after the surgery? And they can see, which is like, I mean, what’s greater than providing someone with the gift of sight right and so it’s the most rewarding field I felt in medicine. So, I was drawn to that for that reason, and also the technology, like in some fields of medicine is kind of slow to evolve the kind of use the same old. My husband’s an orthodontist. He does braces and I make fun of him because, and he said the same thing.

It’s an old field that hasn’t changed. We still use wires to make teeth move according to physics, nothing super innovative has come out of it, except for Invisalign, I guess. But ophthalmology we’re innovating every single day. Like there’s a new laser or like a new, I draw. Do like sanding machine, that little comes out like every month like there’s some breakthrough and we’re still trying to find that like ultimate holy grail of how to hear people’s, presbyopia.

So, we’re too young to know what that term is but one day everyone turns 40 or 45, and the great vision you had up closing your cell phones and your computers. It’s going to go away. Like you have to use reading glasses. And that happens to 100% of people. And so, part of my research and also the field I’m interested in is how can we fix that?

So, we can restore, people are not only their distance vision, which we figured out pretty well with LASIK and things like that but then your vision is tough. And so, there are different surgeries. You can do different eyedrops coming out, implants. So that’s kind of where I’m at right now and where the future is headed. I think I care about refractive surgery and cataract surgery.

Maggie: (00:08:47) I just wanted to note that like Brian and me, we just got our eyes checked a couple of weeks ago. And it is just really interesting because I haven’t gotten my eyes checked in maybe like years. And I noticed that the office that we went to, the practice that we went to 

They had all of this new technology that I had never seen before. And just as you mentioned, that it’s incredible to see all this new technology, I’m just like, oh, what does this machine do? What does that machine do? Right. And it’s just amazing how far our technology has advanced for our eye care.

And you’re right. Like before my parents would ask me to read like small little fonts on little containers and it would be no problem for me. But last week I tried to like read this little font on my concealer, my eye concealer, where it’s like, what color it was. And I was just like, this 

It was something that I didn’t believe either. I was just like, oh my goodness, my vision has changed. But something that happens to us as we grow up, it’s something that we don’t notice. But it’s interesting that you say that it happens to a hundred percent of the people, but we’re progressing in ways to see how have everyone be able to have better eyesight.

Dagny: (00:09:54) For sure. We take for granted the eyesight that we have now, especially living in this digital world like our world is like arm’s length and closer and so once that goes away, like, oh man, it impacts people so much. And they think that they’re blind.

They think that they have this terrible disease that they develop and they don’t realize there’s some natural part of aging. Like there needs to be a PSA out there about this condition. I had people walking in every day being like, what is going on with my vision. I used to see perfect 2020, something terrible is happening. So that’s like laying it, but you’re right about preventative eye care too. It’s so important to get yearly eye exams because we’re touching things all the time, even in young, healthy people that people don’t know because it doesn’t affect your vision until the end stages.

So, I run like a LASIK cataract practice. So, I see lots of healthy young people coming in for LASIK evaluation, all this, and then we find these sometimes-terrible sight-threatening conditions on an exam. A few months ago I was diagnosed with pretty moderate to almost severe glaucoma. And I was young, like 18 years old, who had no idea that that was happening, but we caught it so we could implement the treatment to slow down the progression as much as possible.

So, things like that, like you’re missing because people don’t go to see the doc to see the doctor until wrong right. Until they have symptoms until they’re noticing something, preventative care and screening are so important.

Bryan: (00:11:14) Yeah, Dagny you’re passionate and what you do throughout that entire early part of the podcast is like, wow, you talked about, you’re passionate.

What I’m really curious about. How you’ve met us. That was everything, right? Because obviously, you have your private practice. I know your husband as well. He’s a very energetic guy. Cool guy, shout out to him. And I’m kind of curious because how do you balance all of these, in your life? You’re a new mom, right?

You have your business. I believe your husband also has a private practice as well. And you have a presence on social media, right? It to us looking at that as well. Like how do you manage everything? Out of curiosity, like how do you manage everything and say like

Dagny: (00:11:55) I think everyone who’s, high-achieving always says there’s no such thing as work-life balance, right? There’s no way to achieve equal balance for everything you want to do in your life. You just have to prioritize certain things at certain points in your life and be okay with putting other things on the back burner. And I do that process every day. Like today I’m not in surgery. I’m going to focus on my baby where I’m just going to dedicate half the day to him not being on my phone, not being on social media, and just spending time with him.

And you just have to be very conscious about where you allocate your time. And for me, luckily, it’s easy to do everything that I do because I enjoy it. I think that the best way to do things is when you enjoy it, it doesn’t feel like work. So, like when I’m at work, I’m busy doing my surgeries, but I love doing surgery as you guys know because you make such a huge difference.

And aren’t the same time when I’m not in surgery. I’m like giving talks to companies, it’s a colleague and I love sharing information and educating about the latest advances or like I’m writing another post on social media, educating about these diseases that people don’t know about and it brings me a lot of passion and joy.

Like I just enjoy it and then it takes a village because I could not be doing everything that I’m doing with a baby on my own like I cannot take all the credit and my husband left me to notice. He’s like, no, I’m helping you a lot right. You know how lucky we are to have our parents and 

I’m so grateful because we have like both grandmas nearby and they help out with the babies. And my husband runs his practice as well. So, we both need a lot of help on the personal side of things. So, we outsource as much as possible we have in-laws for a baby. We have house cleaners. We have like food that we pick up.

Like my husband loves cooking, but honestly, I can’t remember the last time he prepared a home-cooked meal because we just don’t have time. Kind of had to do things to make it work. And we used to be very frugal about these things or like wanting to do everything on our own. And we felt bad having other people do these mundane things for us, but now we’ve just given into it because some things are just not worth our time.

As our time is better spent on areas where we have strengths in and we can produce valuable things, and make an impact rather than doing laundry, I’m a horrible homemaker, like I’m not a good house, cleaner housekeeper you probably don’t want me doing that stuff anyway. So anyway, I think it’s all about the perspective and how to prioritize things in your life and be okay with it.

It’s Maggie trying to do it all like home to let it go, girl, you just got out. So, Bryan, I need the men of the modern-day, right? Modern men. They’re very good at the home-sharing responsible.

Bryan: (00:14:41) I would say I’m pretty good at cleaning the house all the time. Literally like before we had our podcast, you, I was like, oh no, like blood from Maggie, as I ran downstairs gave you credit from her.

Maggie: (00:14:58) Oh my gosh, but Dagny, you are impressive. I mean, we did, we have done some research on you. We know that you attended UCLA on a full-tuition region, scholarship, the highest award granted in the UC system and then you graduated Summa cum laude with debris and molecules.

Cell and developmental biology and then received your MD at Harvard medical school, right. Where you discovered your love for ophthalmology and you also perform cutting-edge research on immunology. And so, I want to know, like, after all of that, when you wanted to kind of set up your practice, what was that process like?

I want to know; how did you go about setting up your practice and what was just like the road bumps and roadblocks, those struggles during that process of setting up your practice.

Dagny: (00:15:43)Yeah. That’s such a great transition because I feel like I’m like the typical child, the dream child of every Asian American immigrant parent, right?

Like do well excel in your study, get a good job making good money, and let that be that and I feel like I kind of lives in a box like that because of my upbringing. Like, I wasn’t really. One who was born very outspoken or one to take risks. Like I was very cookie-cutter, like do well in my studies do well in school.

This is the way to elevate our family in the future. And I would have to say it wasn’t until after I graduated from residency that I was like, no, I want to do something more. I don’t want to just work for someone nine to five to see patients and go home. I want to have more control over my practice and how I practice and what patients I serve, and what technology I use.

I want to have more of an impact in the field. Like I want to innovate, I want to do research and I have to say a big influence on that was my husband, Brian. Again, I’m getting him so many props and he’ll be very happy to listen to this episode because I feel like he came from a similar immigrant background, like growing up with a Vietnamese refugee family coming from very.

But he’s always been like street smart, more than books. And so, he’s always been kind of hustler and he’s always had in his mind that he wants to do more. And so, if some of that rubbed off on me like we met our Harvard. So, I was a Harvard medical student. He was a Harvard dental student and he’s always like, I don’t know how I made it into Harvard because he was like I didn’t concentrate on like the studying, but his extracurriculars, his leadership activities.

That’s what got him there. And so, he always saw so much potential in me and dabbing, you can do so much more. As you can, you can be a leader in the field and you can have this amazing business or empire that you’re growing. So, we’re trying to grow this together. So, when I first came out of fellowship training, I was like a lot of my medical colleagues where I just wanted to find any job that would pay a good salary and be done with it.

And I had opportunities to work at jobs like that, where I may never be a partner or owner. I just work as an associate under someone or I worked for a hospital system and let that be that, but then this opportunity came up where there was this big refractive, LASIK, cataract practice for sale in my hometown.

And there was no guarantee-based salary all my colleagues were getting guaranteed-based salaries, and bonuses for relocating. As for me, I had to buy this practice. Like I had to take out more loans. Putting cash to buy this practice coming straight out of training with no money saved and already having debt from all of this, all the schooling and training that we’ve had.

So, it was a huge financial risk, but we felt like the upside was worth it in the end because it’s, you have had autonomy as a doctor is so important these days. Like, I don’t know if you know what’s going on in the healthcare field, but fewer and fewer doctors are becoming owners. They’re becoming employees.

And these practices are getting bought by private equity. So, we’re answering to like a higher order. We can’t run things the way that we used to, like doctors used to be small business owners, but fewer and fewer doctors have the autonomy now. And so, this is an opportunity for me to still have some control over how I want to practice and what I want to do with it.

That was always very exciting to me, but early on, it was super hard. Like I said, because we had no guarantee, we didn’t know what would become of it. And we had to put in huge financial investments from the get-go me having no training, literally within like the real world of the fact of surgery or practicing medicine.

Like I had to learn a lot about on the go in the beginning. And now just looking forward to five years. Back on how far we’ve come. Like we’re, like, it was already a pretty successful practice that we brought it to like the next level, like probably one of the highest volume practices.

I probably do more surgery than the majority. Well, the surgeons in the area and certainly colleagues my age, like I’ve gotten a lot farther because I made that initial investment in myself. And so, because of that, like I’m able to speak on podiums and speak for a lot of companies because I’m kind of a leader in that field because I got the opportunity old early on by becoming my owner versus working for somewhere where you don’t get those many opportunities as an associate

So, yeah, I felt like it was a lot of struggles in the beginning, but it certainly pays off. Like you don’t get big rewards unless you put in big investments and you take the big risks, right. Big risk, big reward. So that’s kind of the route that we took and I could not have done it with my family without Brian believing in me.

So yeah, we’re just very fortunate to be where we are now and we’re hoping now to expand. So, this center is very successful and stable. We’re hoping to open a few more centers now in the surrounding areas within the next five years that’s kind of like our five-year plan and hopefully, own a surgery center as well. So, we’re still looking for ways to grow.

Maggie: (00:20:32) That’s incredible. I mean, and especially, I think, because you kind of put yourself as the brand too, you put so much on social media with your presence on there with your face on there. And so, when people look at this type of content and share it with their friends and everything like that, your concept is very, very educational.

Like a lot of things from just watching the concept. And I think that’s also why a lot of people come to you too right? If they’re like around the area, they’re like, I need to see Dr. Zhu because I found her on social media. So, I’m just really happy to hear that you have progressed a lot faster and more forward than many other people in your, as your colleagues and just having your practice.

I know. In many ways, you’re like your own entrepreneur. You’re an entrepreneur as well, right? You’re setting up your practice. That’s not hustling in itself, but I hear that a lot of people who practice medicine, know how to practice medicine. They’re educated in that field, but it’s very hard for them to know how to manage people, how to set up their practice, how to run a practice as a leader, right?

Because they’re not taught those types of skills in school. They’re just taught how to practice medicine. So, tell us about like, when you were starting up your practice, what were those experiences like I’m sure you had to do everything by yourself right? Just opening up your practice and what do you think takes to be a successful entrepreneur, especially in eye care?

Dagny: (00:21:52) Yeah, those are all great questions and things that doctors, the majority of doctors know nothing about, because like you said, we don’t learn any. I didn’t think about that in training. I think again, that it helps to have a partner in crime. So, Brian came from a dual degree dental and MBA background.

So, he was able to advise on some of those things early on, which was very helpful, but a lot of stuff you just kinda learn on the fly, as you hired. First to help you in areas that you’re not familiar with and you learn from them and it’s okay to do that because you’re not going to be an expert on everything.

So, you have to know when to ask for help. And so, when I was looking at this deal like I had lawyers, I had consultants, accountants reviewing the PNLs of this practice, like doing the evaluation of this practice and seeing what it was for. What the projected growth would be. And you just learn from that whole process.

I think he just learned from doing like, it’s one thing to read about it in a book and go-to online courses, but when you’re doing it yourself that’s the best way to learn and so just from that, and then every month reviewing my PNLs and things like that and knowing where to save money, where to cut on expenses. 

Oh, gosh, I’m still learning about the taxes associated with all this stuff. Like it’s so complicated, but you learn a little bit as you keep going. And I think you’re always improving yourself too by attending these courses. So, in medicine now there are a lot more resources available than ever before.

Like before it was just like a couple of online blogs that you could check out. Now there’s like dedicated conferences that you can go to that teach you how to be a practice manager and practice owner. So literally this past weekend in Scottsdale, Arizona, I just launched a meeting, refractive meeting for refractive surgeons on how the business side of things like how to run your practice, how to market, and how to be a leader.

As I course director for this, I worked with a more senior doctor who kind of took me under his name. That’s for some reason, it took doctors that long, at least an ophthalmology to decide that we needed a meeting to focus on that. Like Dennis, just, I feel like I’ve been doing it for a while. Like Brian is way savvier than I am because I feel like they could practice on us for a while, but all of them do it still kind of new to us.

And so just being a part of that meeting and listening to the speakers and also organizing it, putting it together, like that was also very helpful to me. And hopefully to the people who attended as well.

Maggie: (00:24:16) Wow. That’s important. I didn’t know that they had all of those meetings and pieces of training. I like that.

I just thought that everyone does have to learn by themselves because a lot of people say that they get to learn how to run or practice medicine, but they don’t get to learn how to run a practice as a leader. So, I thought that a lot of it is just like self-taught, but I’m very happy to hear that there is more training that teaches that type of stuff now because it is very much needed and it’s hard to run your own business to be an entrepreneur. So, I’m glad to hear that.

Dagny: (00:24:44) I think social media and this digital space that we have makes it a lot easier it’s sharing of information and all of that. Whereas previously it’s kind of like you said, learning on your own or like learning from your neighbor now, it’s just like so much easier to disseminate that information. 

Doctors getting into social media. I mean, you’ve seen, it’s like with the COVID pandemic, great. Like so many doctors are on social media now because we know the importance of vetting accurate information and battling misinformation. And so, if you’re not online, which is, you know, we’re 75% of adults are getting their health information.

Now, like you are not putting the truth out there. No one will be able to seek that information. It’ll be the charlatans. They were the only ones on social media and be getting, they were scribing a lot of false, dangerous information. And so finally experts, MDs like people with professional training are getting on and reading what the truth is and what science-based.

And so that is so important and I think people, doctors, especially from the older generation, or understanding why the younger generation is getting online now because it was kind of seen as unprofessional in the beginning. But to be honest, doctors are just meeting patients where they are and they’re making the information digestible easy to comprehend entertaining sometimes because that’s the best way you’re going to teach people right. It’s kind of boring. Just put up a textbook you want to send your message in a way that is captivating and entertaining. That’s the best way to reach the public these days through social media.

Bryan: (00:26:16) Thank you so much for taking the time to do that too because I feel like there’s a lot of misinformation out there and it’s really hard for people who aren’t in the field to distinguish what is factual, and what is not align to, I need Google things.

They are not, all of it is actually I’m pretty sure all of us relate when we Google, like sent them home. I have a, I have a cold, or I have a cough. And the first thing you see in the Google search is like, COVID.

Dagny: (00:26:41) Yeah, exactly it’s COVD or cancer. It’s like one of those, right?

Bryan: (00:26:45) I guess this is a good segue to talk about this here that we’re supporting. So, this campaign is for each HHS COVID 19 public education campaign. That’s paid for by us department of health and human services. They want to spend this hocking about the importance of being Basquiat, right. As you’ve mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of information about getting vaccinated. I think one of the most outrageous things I heard is the government’s going to plant a microchip inside you.

You control your brain, just like to like, imagine it, but I just want to give you a second to speak about your thoughts on getting vaccinated, and why it’s so important for people to go out there and protect themselves.

Dagny: (00:27:24)I would say that thankfully, I think the majority of people are on board with vaccinations and science-based evidence and the information that’s been spread by Dr. Faulkner and the experts who know what they’re talking about are on board, and recognizing protecting yourself and those around you, like, that’s the beauty of vaccination. It’s not about yourself, right? It’s about public health and protecting those around you, especially those who can’t get vaccinated themselves because they have underlying illnesses or whatever.

So, this is, this is not about you. This is a conscious decision to protect those around you more. And it’s just that there’s a small minority who are very vocal and those are the people who spread a lot of this misinformation online. Unfortunately, it is a small number of people, but they are again, very vocal.

And so, again, it’s very important for the rest of us. Like you’re doing through your platform, anyone who has a platform to spread awareness and what’s right. I mean, at this point, I feel like most people are vaccinated boosted, like times two. Like myself my whole family is the only.

Individual who is not, and cannot as my poor baby, who is turning two in July and we still haven’t figured out a vaccine for children under five, but luckily there are things that you can do to protect them. The most important is to make sure everyone around them is vaccinated and just be very smart about things don’t put them in school if, if he is showing symptoms of, you know, obviously if other kids are symptomatic and not vaccinated probably a day away from those environments.

But I think that for the majority of people now, age five and older, we all should be vaccinated. There’s no reason not to. And I also saw that most recently, I think there is a booster now that’s approved for kids aged five to 11. So, kids can get boosted now too because we know some of that immunity wanes over time.

And so, it’s good to keep up to date and it’s also different from natural immunity. Like some people are, well, my kid or whatever, I was already exposed. I already got infected. Like there’s no point in you getting vaccinated, but natural immunity is very different from the immunity provided by vaccines, which is more robust and last longer too.

And so, I think if you haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, but you’re a candidate. Like please do it, for yourself and those around you it’s a public health issue.

Bryan: (00:29:51) I agree with that statement more, right. It’s you want to protect your loved ones, it’s not just yourself, right? You want to protect the people around you, your kids or grandparents, and those around you.

So, I’m kind of curious too, when you’re a social media a lot, like what has been some of the most outrageous things you saw, like missing information-wise.

Dagny: (00:30:08) Oh, my God. I don’t know. I can’t even remember them all. Like, as you said, there’s a chip in their cause the government is a mine train us or COVID-19 makes you infertile.

I guess that was like a big myth amongst men and trying to get pregnant because they were trying to flood into this fear, very deep fear that women have who are having trouble getting pregnant. Like fertility is such a precious issue for a lot of women and that they were attacking that and having COVID.

Somehow effect that that’s tugging at their emotional heartstrings with that topic like that. It just crossed the line for me and so many things. I can’t even fathom all, as you can just, oh, drinking bleach. What was it like drinking stuff that was also killing the virus, like all kinds of the injustice of toxic substances? That’s probably not a good idea.

Dagny: (00:31:01) Yes, parasitic treatments, right? Like taking that for yourself. It’s just, that they’re worried about FDA trials, which are backed by so many patients so much like sound studies, and then they’re just pitching these random therapies that have zero.

Backing zero research, zero studies. And they’re just pitching it as an idea. So, I don’t even understand where common sense comes in when they’re kind of fear-mongering and pitching new, outrageous ideas.

Maggie: (00:31:30) I think that was when COVID had first came out and people were just kind of making up everything on what I’m glad we’re getting to a place where there’s like a little bit more research on it, and we’re able to prove that some of those myths are not true, but just on the topic of COVID-19 I want to know, can you share with us, how your treatment as a doctor changed during COVID-19? What did you have to do during that time during the pandemic? Did you have to transition to doing virtual assessments and how did that turn out?

Because for eye exams, I imagine that can be extremely difficult to do that virtually, but just talk to us about what are some of the ways that you have to change your treatment as a doctor during that time.

Dagny: (00:32:08) I feel like, some fields were hit harder by the COVID restaurant industry being one of them. Of course, healthcare is the other. We had to close down in the beginning like just shut down all operations because technically cataract surgery and the surgeries that I was doing were considered elective surgery. It’s not life-threatening to have a cataract right. So, you could potentially wait, even if you couldn’t see anymore as you could break.

And so, we had to just shut down for a whole. Where I wasn’t operating as our staff wasn’t getting paid and I had no idea, like our overhead was still accumulating, no idea if we would ever bounce back from that period. So, it was a very scary period. And at the same time our patients were suffering because of, we couldn’t do elective procedures, but senior citizens were falling from their cataracts and sustaining fractures and life-threatening rehabilitation because your site is so vital.

The safety and your ability to function every day and so even though it wasn’t life-threatening, it was certainly urgent and necessary, in a lot of cases. And so, I was really worried for my patients as well. And we couldn’t see a lot of them for their urgent eye exams. Like, so they have redness or pain.

They had to go to the emergency rooms who were open, but they couldn’t see me right. Telemedicine was one area in which we could assess some of those issues. But as you mentioned, it’s just so difficult and I care and it’s an area of, I care. I think had already been growing before. COVID because there are rural areas that don’t have access to eye specialists.

And telemedicine is the only way to do routine screening of diabetic eye diseases and cataracts and things like that. But since the pandemic, there’s been more money and more effort put into telemedicine because we. This is going to be a part of, the way that we deliver eyecare now. Like it’s not just something that passes because of COVID, it’s something that we recognize the value of, because again, not every area has access to specialists and it keeps our clinics less congested too.

So, there are certain things that we can do through telemedicine. There are apps now that you can use to check the vision relatively accurately. You can always do a face-to-face exploration of the patient’s symptoms, the best that we can, and can kind of show a picture of your eyes so we can see the level of redness.

But anything beyond that is pretty difficult to assess because the eye is a very visual field and you have to come in. So, we can use our special microscopes, special imaging, and scanners to attack if there’s a problem with your vision or your eye health. But we are trying to come up with more technologies to improve that diagnosis.

So now there’s like adapters that you can attach to your iPhone that actually can take a picture of the back of the retina, for like diabetes screen. Yeah. Hopefully, there are more technologies that will help you check your eye pressure remotely, how you have to go in the office and there’s like this high puff, or sometimes you have to like pop on your eye.

Maybe there’s a way to do that remotely too. So definitely room for innovation in this area. That’s very much.

Maggie: (00:35:12) That’s amazing. I mean, I’m excited to see all of those innovations come to life. And I mean, yeah. I feel like the technology for eye care and eye exams is just progressing so fast. So, I’m very happy to know that even after COVID is over new technology is going to stay because, I think a lot of people are just like doing everything at home nowadays and we need to go get with a tie and it’s pretty much, so I’m really happy and excited.

Dagny: (00:35:39) I think that the hygiene and sanitation, like we took it to a whole nother level and I think we’re going to keep it there. Like we still ask patients to wear masks. We still screen them for symptoms. We still check their temperature if they have symptoms. So, a lot of that stuff, I think we’ll never go in. I think it’s better for us and then there are a lot of surgeries now that we do bilateral. It’s kind of been gold standard to do one eye at a time besides LASIK, where we do both do two eyes, but a lot of stories like cataract surgery.

We only do one eye at a time, but because COVID prevented so many patients from getting their care and there’s such a huge backlog, a lot of doctors started doing both eyes the same day. And so, I do think that that’s going to be a future the future too because it’s going to decrease health care costs.

It’s more convenient for the patient and we’ve done it in a way that it’s safe and effective. And so COVID has revolutionized eye care in many ways.

Bryan: (00:36:32) I think every negative situation, there’s always a positive situation and this is one of them and yeah, that’s mean the pandemic itself as whole terrible tuition. But I mean, it’s helping us rethink our lives to help rethink how we do things and honestly, this is the only time that we had in the history of Medicare over the last a hundred years is to stop and pause and be like, are we doing things the best way that we.

Great to reflect that. So, I do have a final question. And that question is, do you have any advice for anybody looking to start their practice at this point?

Dagny: (00:37:05) I think you just have to take the plunge. Like I think a lot of doctors especially are in analysis paralysis because we’re all kind of like-type A personalities. We like to know everything before we jump into it, especially with something that we’re not comfortable and familiar with on running a practice and being entrepreneurs that are very, very sticky because again, we don’t learn that as a doctor, but if you just keep analyzing it without pulling the trigger, you’re going to miss out on a lot of opportunities.

I know a lot of colleagues who use the pandemic at the time to start their practice, like to leave their associate job and decide that, Hey I want to have more control over my day-to-day. I want to have more impact on my patients more say, and so they did it during probably the scariest time when everything was so unstable.

Right so, if they can do it like honestly, anyone can do it and you just have to. Do the work, do the research be prepared to work, obviously, but as I said before the bigger, the risk, the bigger reward. And so, I think that there’s no reason that you should be fair and I think there’s still a place for doctor-owned practices.

Those patients who are looking for that more personal boutique care, because a lot of people are afraid that private equity is just taking over and it’s hard to compete as a solo doctor but I do think there’s still a place for sure, for the doctor on practices. And even if you do work with a large group on them where you at least have partial ownership and you can still make a lot of the day-to-day decisions. I think autonomy is huge, especially for doctors, and something that we should not so easily.

Maggie: (00:38:36) Thank you so much for sharing that stuck to its technique. I took away from that, that just go for it and there are just so many resources out there that you can always look up what are the best practices and just methods to start your practice. So, I love that message. So, thank you so much for sharing that where can our listeners find out more about you online and your practice online?

Dagny: (00:38:57) So, I have my website www.DZEyeMD.com that’s eye and then literally the same handle on almost every single platform, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook it’s @DZEyeMD

Maggie: (00:39:12)    Perfect. We’ll leave all of those in our show notes, Dr. Dagny Zhu thank you so much for being on our podcast today was amazing just to hear you.

Dagny: (00:39:20) Thank you, Maggie and Bryan, for having me on, and I love being a part of the Asian Hustle Network so please keep uplifting our community. Thank you so much for all that you do.

Bryan: (00:39:29) Of course. Thank you, Dr. Dagny. Appreciate your story.