Episode 14 Recap: Dr. Steve Mark Gan on being a gamechanger for Philippine dentistry

Who says that dentistry and business can’t mix?

Last week’s episode of CHiNOY TV’s Chinese by Blood, Filipino By Heart spotlights the Philippines’ own Dentist of the Stars. As the President and CEO of GAOC Group of Companies, Dr. Steve Mark Gan reveals his decades-long aspiration to transform the local dentistry industry into the fashionable and glamorous practice that it is becoming today. 

Rising up against the challenges of being an industry gamechanger, Gan has come far in his efforts to highlight what he calls the “sexy” side of dentistry. This is what viewers have taken away from his story:


1. Work hard now to reap the rewards of the future.

Having been raised in a strict and conservative Chinoy household, Dr. Steve Mark Gan lived a childhood defined by hard work and self-discipline. Aside from having instilled within them a strong sense of Chinese culture and values, he and his brother were constantly reminded of their responsibility to make the most of their education. 

As Gan’s own mother shares, the reason behind this is simple: “The world is very, very competitive. You have to really work hard in order to survive.”  

Upon hearing those words, a fire ignited within Gan. Inspired by a lecture from his mentor Dr. Peter Moy in UCLA, Gan took everything he learned from his studies in dentistry abroad and did his best to bring them to the Philippines. During this time, he opened a modestly sized clinic, sacrificed enjoying a honeymoon, and desperately borrowed funds from family and friends to pursue his dreams. There was even a time when Gan and his best friend waited for six and half hours to be entertained by a loan shark because he needed the money. 

“We were just waiting there, and my best friend — his name is Dominic Chung — was so angry. He said, ‘Mark, c’mon! Let’s go!’ I said, ‘I can’t! I cannot leave. I need to get his money. If I don’t pay, I will be ruined,’” Gan recalled. 

Chung then offered him the 250,000 pesos that Gan needed, borrowing money from his own father. Gan continued, “We went home. I never got the money from the loan shark. My friends from grade school all chipped in their money just to help me out. I knew that having that first dental clinic in 2001 would spell the difference. It would change the history of dentistry. That’s how it started.”

Reacting to Gan’s zealous efforts, Cha Cha commented, “President and CEO of GAOC Dr. Steve Mark Gan followed the advice of his parents. It inspired me to be a strict parent to my children as well, but in a nice and cool way. I will tell my son the history of his hard work and tell them to study first before [having a] love life.” 

Kristian Valenzuela also posted, “‘You really have to start from the bottom.’ I agree with this. As for me, one can fully enjoy the real taste of success if you will start from zero. I love the challenge of starting from zero everyday and seeing how much I accomplish. As they say ‘From ZERO to HERO.’

“‘Work hard.’ Nothing is impossible if you work hard. It is indeed true that success is not an accident. It is the result of your effort, time, patience, grit, passion, and strong desire to achieve your dreams and aspirations in life.”


2. Be bold and unique. 

In the first place, the reason why Gan needed all these funds was because he wanted to modernize the Philippine dentistry scene with the technology and services available abroad. 

“In dentistry, in order to change the landscape or to be a gamechanger, I had to be different,” Gan explained. “When we opened our first GAOC in 2001, we set up a surgery room. Usually kasi, at the time, when you do dental surgeries or bunots — [as] they were calling it] — I would change the terminologies. It’s not extraction, but it’s surgery. We would create an operating room in a dental clinic. Before, they would do the dental procedure just on the dental chair. But we created a surgery room.

“And this, I learned from Dr. Peter Moy. If we are going to showcase the best, we must have the best. So we got ourselves not only one but two Siemens chairs. At the time, those were the most expensive chairs. It was like a million [pesos] for one chair. People were saying I was crazy, but I said it has to be done to give the patients a different quality or different atmosphere. A different feeling.”   

“Dr. Steve Gan said, ‘You have to be a game changer and different.’ I strongly believe in that. To rise up against challenges, you have to be bold and better. A positive mind really helps to become successful. Now, he is renowned in the industry of dentistry. I idolize him, and someday, I will achieve my dreams too,” said Lemuel Nicasio Francisco.

Chabelita Dela Cruz also posted her own reflection: “[Dr. Steve Mark Gan] is right. In order to be successful, you have to be different [and] unique because that will make you stand out. Being different doesn’t mean you’re wrong. It only means you have your own perspective. Just like him, during the pandemic, I discovered my real self. Being different makes me feel comfortable and genuinely happy. Just because I take a different path, it doesn’t mean I’m lost.”

Meanwhile, Kristian Valenzuela added, “‘Be a game changer.’ I absolutely agreed to this. Don’t settle for mediocrity. If you want something new, create one. The environment is constantly changing, so we must adapt to this.”


3. Treat all your customers as if they are your last. 

All these efforts to innovate didn’t lead to nothing. As Gan continued to offer quality services, he soon started to attract clientele who only wanted the best. In fact, King of Talk Boy Abunda, who had once been known for his fear of the dentist’s chair, became one of Gan’s most regular customers, even going so far as to recommend him multiple times on national television. 

“To my surprise, we took away [Boy Abunda’s] fear of going to the dentist. He was so thankful that he thanked me on national TV again, and again, and again. And I said, ‘Boy, there’s no need. You’re a paying patient.’ Then he asked me one question, ‘Are patients coming in?’ And I said, ‘Not really.’ He started greeting me every day.

“One Saturday morning, when I went to the office, I saw a very, very long line. When I was interviewing the patients, I would say, ‘How can I help you? Where did they come from? How did you know about GAOC?’ And one by one they would say, ‘Boy Abunda.’ I heard you in Boy Abunda’s show.’”

Leslie Vannesa Lim advised, “Treat all customers as if they are your last!! Tailor fit approach to their needs.”

Similarly, Kristian Valenzuela shared, “Treat all your customers (patients) with the same genuine care and attention because, sooner or later, they can be your walking advertisements (word of mouth marketing or referrals really work).”


Don’t miss the replay of this week’s episode of Chinese by Blood, Filipino by Heart this evening, November 13, at 6:30 PM. Catch the next episode on Sunday at 8 PM. Both episodes will air on CNN Philippines. 

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