Pictured: Dr. Joseph Chang/
Some people seemingly defy the laws of gravity.
Dr. Joseph Chang, 42, owns and operates medical offices in Bakersfield and Santa Barbara. He also performs surgeries out of a medical center in Valencia and sees patients in Mammoth when he comes up with his family to stay at his condo in Lincoln House in the Village at Mammoth.
Have I mentioned he is a father of four (all daughters)? Or that the most recent addition to the family was born in February?
Sheet: You must put 100,000 miles a year on your car.
Chang: Not that much … but probably more than 50,000.
Chang, an opthalmologist who now specializes in oculoplastic (cosmetic) surgery (facial rejuvenation, eyelids), has a fascinating family history.
His father emigrated to the United States from Taiwan in the mid-1960s. At that time, relates his son, only the best and brightest were allowed to emigrate and Joe’s father, who held a doctorate degree in physics, qualified.
“That’s where we [Joe and younger brother Daniel, a partner in the Bakersfield practice] get our brains from,” laughed Joe.
Career-wise, Dad interestingly traded in physics for preaching (primarily in the Chinese language).
Joseph’s hometown is Knoxville, Tenn., and he has bachelor’s and medical degrees from Emory University in Atlanta.
Wanting a new experience, Joseph decided to move to California for his residency, opting for UCLA.
He had every intention of returning to Atlanta (his wife’s hometown) after completing his residency, but like so many who have come to California, Chang was ultimately won over by California’s spectacular geography.
“The nail in the coffin was that one day where I skied Mammoth in the morning and then rollerbladed on the boardwalk and watched the sunset that evening. Where else can you do that?”
While at UCLA, Chang caught the attention of Dr. James Shuler. It was Shuler who persuaded Chang to open a practice with him in Bakersfield once Chang completed his residency.
They partnered together for eight years until Shuler retired, with Chang buying him out of the practice.
During that time, Chang said he performed more than 3,500 cataract surgeries.
“There are not many people who do that [type of surgical work] and then stop doing it,” he said.
The reason: younger brother Daniel, whom Joseph recruited from Scottsdale, Ariz. to join the practice.
Daniel has taken over the cataract and LASIK work while Joseph focuses on the cosmetic side.
Daniel’s resume is equally impressive, with stops at Caltech, Duke and Emory.
The Bakersfield practice also has two optometrists on staff.
While this year is atypical because of the birth of his fourth daughter, Chang usually visits Mammoth every weekend during the ski season (January-Memorial Day) and once a month offseason.
He generally just brings his equipment in a doctor’s bag and sees patients in a conference room at Grand Sierra Lodge.
He does consultations and basic treatments in Mammoth, and performs surgeries either at the home office in Bakersfield, at a medical facility in Valencia, or at the McDougal Eye Center in Santa Barbara near his new office in Montecito.
He generally doesn’t see a lot of patients in Mammoth, perhaps two or three on a Saturday afternoon, though he plans to log a heavier schedule next weekend (for more information, see ad page 14) and have a staffer from the Montecito office join him.
“My girls like skiing and Mammoth in large part because it’s their Daddy time,” he says.
“My goal when I come to Mammoth is recreation,” he added. “I’m not looking to do a godawful amount of work. I want to meet people and be part of the community.”
Chang owns a unit in Lincoln House. He is a regular at the Smokeyard BBQ and Chop Shop.
Would Chang consider building a larger practice in Mammoth Lakes? Unlikely.
The cost to build out his new office in Montecito was some $500,000, as the latest equipment does not come cheap. “The startup cost for an opthalmology parctice is prohibitive,” he said.
If there’s one thing Chang would convey to anyone seeking cosmetic work, it’s that shopping simply based on price can be deceptive.
A significant part of the cost is in anesthesia, “and I don’t think you should take risks or cut costs there,” he said.
Personal story: I got a call from Dr. Chang’s office assistant in Bakersfield last year. She said that Dr. Chang makes it a point to personally meet the people he does business with. So we arranged a dinner at the Smokeyard, and I brought my wife.
We got there before he did and I sort of loitered by the door, watching people come in.
I kept on the lookout for an older gentleman. I figured he had to be older, given his degree of success.
I was not expecting a young man accompanied by two extremely sweet and well-behaved daughters under ten years of age.
What really struck me about Chang was his intuition – a key quality to have, I would suspect, if you’re an oculoplastic surgeon.