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Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Pediatric Plastic Surgeon Victor Chien

Victor Chien, MD, a Cedars-Sinai pediatric plastic surgeon

Meet Victor Chien, MD, a pediatric plastic surgeon who serves as the director of cleft and craniofacial surgery at Cedars-Sinai Guerin Children’s.

While his medical accolades speak for themselves, Chien’s career started out in ecology—and a side gig running open mic nights in Philadelphia.

Chien shares more about his unique journey, what brought him to Guerin Children’s and his hobbies outside of work.

"My goal in the next five years is to first and foremost provide world-class pediatric cleft and craniofacial care to any patient in our network of affiliates that desires streamlined coordination within a single healthcare system."

How has your career evolved?

Victor Chien: One of my animating principles is that life is about the journey. The throughline that explains it all for me is my fascination with the intersection between the built and natural worlds. My first job was as an ecologist studying the impact on natural ecosystems by human society, then in American Samoa looking at societal impacts on community health, and finally direct intervention for the betterment of a patient’s health.

It has all been an evolution, and non-attachment is one of the central things that both ground me in a changing and unpredictable environment, as well as allowing me the freedom to think outside the box, see around the next corner and more nimbly tailor my approach to the needs at hand.

Since you didn’t start out with the goal of being a pediatric plastic surgeon, how does it feel finding yourself in this role?

VC: It’s wonderful! It’s the combination of many of my core principles and interests. It allows me to be a doctor, a surgeon, an advocate, a caregiver, a scientist, a community leader, an educator, a scholar and a support system for patients and families in need.

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Victor Chien, MD

Plastic Surgery
Guerin Children’s Provider

Victor Chien, MD

Plastic Surgery
Guerin Children’s Provider
Accepting New Patients
Guerin Children’s Provider
In-person Visits
Accepting New Patients

You started the craniofacial surgery program at Cedars-Sinai Guerin Children’s. Why did you join this team and this hospital?

VC: There are a lot of things that needed to be in place for this to be a successful enterprise, and people are core to that. I looked at a lot of opportunities, but Cedars-Sinai was the only place that had the special combination of the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes mission alignment, institutional support, multidisciplinary collaboration, thoughtful leadership, patience and buy-in from sometimes competing stakeholders to make something like this work. Ultimately, the quality of the people makes all the difference, and the people of Cedars-Sinai are the best.

What is your dream for this program over the next five years?

VC: My goal in the next five years is to first and foremost provide world-class pediatric cleft and craniofacial care to any patient in our network of affiliates that desires streamlined coordination within a single healthcare system. The aim is to bring the Cedars-Sinai experience into the pediatric cleft and craniofacial space.

Because the management of many of these diagnoses requires close follow up and coordination among a team of physicians and surgeons, being able to keep all of the moving pieces within the same healthcare network has a lot of benefits.

As a parent, I think the hardest switch happens in the time between diagnosis, which tends to be at one institution, then needing to switch care to a completely separate institution for treatment of that diagnosis.
At Cedars-Sinai, you can skip that step because we’re all under one roof. We are already providing that level of care here at Cedars-Sinai Guerin Children’s, and the next five years we will only see more growth. The future is bright!

How does being a father of two young children impact your work?

VC: Frankly, being a parent is the reason I get up in the morning. Just like I want my kids to have rich and meaningful lives, I want to remove as many barriers as I can in my patients’ lives so they can do the same.

Life is unpredictable, and many times these diagnoses are unexpected, but I firmly believe that they don’t need to derail the expectations that any parent is bound to have when they start a family. My goal is to help my patients have the richest and most meaningful lives they can, and we do that by addressing their craniofacial differences in ways that remove or lessen those barriers.

How do you create and spend time with your family outside of a demanding career?

VC: I couldn’t do what I do without the support of my family. We carve out time every day to share the same space and be present for each other. We’re a motley crew and love going on adventures together, big or small.

You’re just as likely to find us all snuggled up on the couch playing improv as you would be running into our crew at a breakdancing competition or a day hike in the canyons. They recharge and inspire me so I can be who I need to be for my patients.

Speaking of life outside of work, tell us about your experience as an emcee in Philadelphia. What did that experience teach you about your current role?

VC: That was such a great time. Part community organizing, part art and music, and 100% about expression and creativity. Emceeing and freestyling are not easy, but it’s so much fun. Weaving a story together with the people around you with only the things you have at hand is surprisingly very similar to building a new program and helping kids and their families in ways that weren’t available before.

I also ran a bookstore with my wife and close friends in Boston while I was in medical school and residency, and we did the same with a spoken word open mic and music for the kids in our neighborhood. There’s a rumor we might be starting up a similar project here in L.A. Stay tuned!

What is one piece of advice you would give an aspiring pediatric doctor?

VC: Never lose sight of why you wanted to do this in the first place because you’re still here. Medical training and medical practice can be a pressure cooker, but you should never lose faith. There are intrinsic qualities that got you to where you are today, and those qualities are only getting stronger with every experience and every challenge that you’ve conquered.

Keep going and don’t forget to look up every now and then and appreciate just how far you’ve come. Take care of yourself and take care of each other. It’s always been about the journey. Before you know it, you’ll be out under the bright lights. Keep going!