Being a perfectionist has its challenges, but it has never worried Dr Rick Luu. It is a hallmark of his life and career.
Starting his life in Australia as a boat refugee in the late 1970s, Rick grew up appreciating family, the value of money and hard work from a young age. Lessons he says he has not forgotten.
The owner and principal dentist at Canberra’s Oasis Dental came to Australia with his parents and four siblings in 1979 as boat refugees following the Vietnam War. Just 14 months old when he arrived, Rick says, “Obviously I don’t remember the journey, but my family has told me it took a very long time – seven or eight months to get from Vietnam to Australia.”
The family’s first stop was in Sydney at the Villawood Migrant Hostel, now the Villawood Detention Centre. From there, Rick and his family moved to Sydney’s sprawling outer suburbs, where he grew up.
“We were poor, but my parents worked hard, doing factory work and labouring,” he says. “We were all expected to contribute, but my early life taught me the value of money. Cost is relative to what you have.”
Like most immigrant children, Rick was expected to go to university and ‘make something of himself’. Attending local public schools, Rick studied hard and went on to study dentistry at University of Sydney where he excelled, graduating with Honours. It was here where he met his wife, Dr Jeanine Lee, who now also works at Oasis Dental.
After completing their training, Rick and Jeanine headed north to Hervey Bay in Queensland. “I picked out a job at Hervey Bay as I am a keen fisherman,” he says. “I thought we could start there and slowly make our way back down the coast working as assistant dentists.”
Rick and Jeanine got as far as the Gold Coast, where they liked the lifestyle so much that he bought the practice from his employer and stayed for 11 years.
Keen to build the business, Rick opened a second practice and hired more dentists.
“Unfortunately, this ended up being the wrong move for me,” he says. “I have really high standards and I had to re-do a lot of the other dentists’ work. Eventually that just didn’t make sense so I consolidated the practice to focus on doing work to a standard I was happy with. That meant it was either Jeanine or I who had to perform the dental work.”
Always on the lookout for ways to do things better, Rick created an online booking system for his practice in 2009 that ended up as a whole new business.
He noticed there were problems with people getting emergency dental appointments and that dentists were struggling to manage last-minute cancellations. In response, Rick created 1st Available – now MyHealth1st – a game changer for medical bookings in Australia.
Rick then left dentistry for a while, relocating to Sydney to focus on his startup. But in 2012 he stepped back as the CEO of 1st Available and decided he wanted to get back into his passion of dentistry.
With the experience of a successful dental practice and then a period of creating and running a booming IT startup behind him, Rick says it was time to focus on family with less stress and anxiety.
In 2013, he and his family relocated to Canberra and established Oasis Dental. “Sydney was a busy city and a saturated market,” he says. “Life was too hectic and the traffic was horrendous. Canberra is different. This city lends itself to diversity and the people are more united. There are green spaces everywhere and there is always something to do. It is a much better place to raise a family.”
Rick rejects the status quo of dentistry in which he feels dental treatments are sold as commodities and do not always represent good value or achieve the right outcome.
“At Oasis Dental, we are outcome focused,” he says. “This means the dental work we do has to produce the best outcome for the patient. Most people want to keep their teeth for life, but have dental work that will only last a few years at best. We are not selling dental work; we really want to help our patients achieve healthy long-term dental outcomes.”
Rick says ensuring Oasis Dental patients have good outcomes means very few, if any, of his patients have dental emergencies, which means he gets to spend more time with Jeanine and their three children – a daughter and twin boys.
“After all I have experienced, I know our first job is to be mum and dad,” he says. “Family life is important.”
Oasis Dental reflects Rick’s vision to offer dental health outcomes, not dental treatment, and to help people keep their teeth for life. For more information or to make an appointment, visit Oasis Dental.