Bejing-born Joy Kong was crushed when she learned her student Visa application was rejected. Not even the college scholarship or the letter of support from her mother’s former student – who is an American citizen- was enough to convince the United States government that Joy deserved to live and study in America.
For most people that would have been the end of a dream. They would tell themselves and others, “Oh well, at least I tried,” and nurture bitterness toward the country that rejected them.
But Dr. Joy Kong is not most people, and how she turned that rejection into just a stepping stone to becoming one of America’s greatest underdog stories is extraordinary.
Disappointment over the rejection turned to anger, which Joy harnessed for her own purpose. “I don’t care what it takes,” she told herself and everyone else, she was going to join China’s best and brightest who made it to America and built amazing lives.
“Who are they to tell me no?” she fumed.
While her friends told her to give up, Joy doubled down on her American Dream. She knew she had what it takes. She knew her parents supported her- they’d even given her their life savings, and borrowed the same amount to ensure their daughter had some resources.
Joy looked at the obstacle before her and broke it down logically. The reason she’d been denied entry, according to the notice she received, is that the letter of support on her behalf wasn’t convincing enough for those government officials. It seemed to them that a former student of her mother was not someone who was truly committed to ensuring Joy would not become a burden on society. The government decided Joy did not have close enough ties to that person, and would need to provide a more solid individual to sponsor her.
“Fine,” she said, “I’ll just get to know someone.”
How would a young woman in Bejing circumvent the Chinese limitations on communicating with other countries to get to know an American well enough to sponsor her Visa application?
“It’s impossible,” her friends told her.
Apparently her friends did not know Joy very well.
Grabbing the phone book in her hands, Joy flipped to the yellow pages and began cold calling hotels in Bejing. The hotel operator would answer and Joy would request to be connected to a random room. If there was no answer, Joy would call the hotel back and ask to be connected to another random room. If a guest picked up the phone, Joy would say hello and ask what country the guest was from. If the guest was Chinese, Joy would offer them english lessons. If the guest was American, Joy would offer them Chinese lessons.
On it went. One call after another after another. She met some creeps, she says, but ultimately Joy reached a person who was open to speaking seriously with her, and offered her a job.
It wasn’t a ticket to America but Joy saw this offer as an opportunity to get one step closer- even if the job was in Tibet, and even if that job was so dangerous she could be killed doing it.
The job as a mountain tour guide in Tibet was extreme but Joy simply did not care. Nothing was going to stop her from her goal to live and study in America, and if this was what she had to do, so be it.
Her grit paid off in the form of an American tourist she met on the job. She thought he was an angel sent straight to her in answer to her prayer and as a reward for her faith. This man maintained his angel status long enough to convince her she was right about him, and became her sponsor that got her to America.
“He turned out to be not such an angel,” she says, with a quick shake of her head and an even quicker change of subject as she moves into the next part of her story.
It had been a circuitous route, but she’d made it.
Joy Kong was in America, honing her english and going all-in on her goal.
She was barely settled in to her student life at UCLA when Joy realized her chosen path of Neuroscience wasn’t going to be the path for her. She quickly realized the treatments in that field were too limiting to allow even the best neuroscientist to adequately treat patients. It was actually depressing for those doctors, she says, because there was very little sense of feeling like they were able to truly help a patient.
Psychiatry, on the other hand, seemed promising as well as fascinating. She dove into that field instead, becoming triple certified in psychiatry, addiction medicine, and anti-aging and regenerative medicine.
Today Dr. Joy Kong is the president of the Thea Center for Regenerative Medicine in Los Angeles, California, and the founder & CEO of Chara Biologics, a company dedicated to providing cutting-edge regenerative medicine products in the US and the global market. She’s earned top awards for her work in stem cell therapy, and she donates time as an advisor for Verve, a veteran owned CBD product company.
Stem cell therapy is a somewhat controversial area in this country, with insurance companies refusing to cover it and pharmaceutical companies working to oppose it. Joy insists it is the most effective path to treating patients for a range of ailments and issues, and can back up that position with volumes of facts and personal experience.
Using intelligence to treat people rather than drugs is a paradigm shift, says Joy, but one which is long overdue. Cells are alive, and possess their own intelligence. The stem cells introduced into a patient can communicate with that person’s own cells and produce results that are “transformative,” says Dr. Joy Kong.
It’s a highly specialized area requiring extensive training and skill to become proficient in but to Joy it is the very reason she fought so hard to come to this country and excel in her studies. Becoming a doctor was not itself the goal.
Helping people was and is Joy Kong’s purpose, and stem cell therapy is her tool to do so.
“I felt like a hero,’ says Joy, the first time she saw dramatic results in a patient after treating them with stem cell therapy. She believes in it so much, she formed the American Academy of Integrated Stem Cell Therapy, to disseminate information to serve as a resource for other doctors venturing into the field. Right now only about 10% of the medical profession appears to be open to the value of stem cell therapy, but Joy is on a mission to change that.
She knows she up against massively powerful pharmaceutical companies with a vested interest in keeping patients dependent on their products. She knows those companies have powerful allies, and she knows there is little incentive for the medical system to change, allowing people to access stem cell therapy through their insurance coverage.
She knows all of that, but she is not daunted by any of it.
The same fire that fueled Joy to push through all the challenges she has in the past burns even stronger now, and cannot be extinguished. She is determined to obtain FDA approval for stem cell therapy and pave the way for what she knows will literally transform people’s health and lives.
“I really don’t have a whole lot of fear,” says Joy. Her parents could not beat her into submission. Trekking up a mountain in Tibet, knowing one misstep would end her life, didn’t scare her. No one can take away her dignity, she says, and even dying is worth the risk of doing what she knows to be right.
The key is to find your spiritual place, and that will give you the strength to overcome any challenges. The opportunities in America are far greater than China and Joy’s determination is rarely outmatched, so she is confident that one day, the young woman who was once denied access to this country, will change one of its biggest industries.