Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018
Behind Juk “J” Ting’s adventures and accomplishments is the story of a person who overcame various struggles to make his dreams come true.
The 49-year-old Virginia Commonwealth University alumnus is a practicing physician and an airline pilot.
An immigrant from Taiwan, Ting came to the United States in 1983 at age 14, speaking hardly any English. He applied to VCU but was not accepted and instead attended Germanna Community College for two years. His grades paved the way for VCU acceptance on his second try. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, Ting was again disappointed when he was not accepted into VCU’s School of Medicine. He carried on, attending the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
“It’s OK if you’re not the brightest guy in your class,” Ting said. “If it takes you two years to do what people can do in one year, just try.”
Ting said he applied to more than 20 medical schools. “You will not believe the rejection letters I got.”
He credits his graduation from VCU to housemate Maulik Shah, M.D., Ph.D., whom Ting said, “carried me along.”
Ting was shy, reserved, not confident in his English, but very much able to hold his own, Shah said.
Shah recalls making bets about academic achievements with his friend Nick Vahanian, M.D., in an attempt to motivate each other to do well at VCU. For example, whoever got the lowest score on the next test would have to buy Chinese food for the group. Shah said they invited others to join, but “very few people would take us up on this other than J Ting.”
Before they were close friends, Shah, who is color blind, was struggling in his histology class because some of the readings he needed required him to distinguish between red and green. Ting spent long hours helping him.
Soon, Ting became an integral part of the friend group. The group found keys to the roof of the biology building and dragged lawn chairs up to an old greenhouse there, which they turned into a clubhouse of sorts.
In the course of the friendship, Shah said, Ting began to influence him. “J Ting might be the only one of us who had an inkling of possibly going into medicine,” Shah said. “I think he helped us see medicine as a potential career.” Today, Shah, Vahanian and Ting are all licensed physicians.
Ting worked as a stadium doctor at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles for 11 years. His ability to speak fluent Chinese opened the door to his job with the Dodgers because, at the time, four Taiwanese players were on the team.
He began flying planes as a hobby, but that interest blossomed into a career as a flight instructor and then as a professional airline transport pilot.
“I’m sure that the birth of this started at a bar with the three of us talking about the joys of flying,” said Shah, who also got his pilot license, but has not kept it valid.
Ting’s passion for flying became a career in 2016. He flew the Boeing 777 for Southern Air, which offers air freighter services, and is now in training to fly the Boeing 747 for Kalitta Air, an American cargo airline. Ting didn’t trade medicine for flying, though. He is board certified in emergency medicine and is licensed to practice medicine in 22 states, which he does between flights through the telemedicine company Teladoc.
Ting said either he “got lucky” or opportunities “dropped in his lap” when he describes his medical career with the Los Angeles Dodgers or flying a Boeing 777 and 747, or the way telemedicine allows him to travel all over the country while practicing both his careers.
As Ting travels the world in the jets that he flies for work, he is looking to reconnect with the people he credits with bringing him to where he is today. Shah hopes they can meet up in California, where Ting lives. Audrey Jordan, Ph.D., a counselor at Germanna Community College whose advice Ting continues to cherish, has moved to Ting’s area, and said they’ve talked about him taking her for a plane ride.
Ting is not sure what to hope for next. He describes his story as “just a little immigrant guy from Taiwan, not very good in school, but before 50 years of age achieved all his dreams.”