Jennifer Su is a charismatic health care provider who helps people in all life's stages. She delivers babies, treats women's health and leads dance classes, keeping the young and old mentally and physically fit.
The second-generation physician works at Jefferson City Obstetrics and Gynecology on Plaza Drive, next to Capital Ritz Banquet and Dance Center. Su delivers eight to 15 babies monthly, so she can offer personal attention. She also manages the dance center with her husband, Dr. John Lucio, and is an experienced Zumba and hip-hop instructor.
Su met her husband as Lucio's instructor on Jefferson City's Dancing with the Stars 2009, and they've been in step ever since. The contest pairs locally well-known figures with instructors, and the couples compete against one another in a dance competition.
"We were just dance partners, and I started to like him because he was so nice," Su said. "Then he asked me out, and I was so happy."
They're also classmates in a two-year integrative medicine fellowship through the University of Arizona, studying alternative and traditional medical practices such as acupuncture, meditation and herbal remedies. "I'm learning a lot," Su said.
Su was born 1971 to doctors Philo and Kwei Lee in Rochester, Minnesota. The family moved to Jefferson City three years later. Su was raised in the medical industry. Her grandmother, Chin Lee, cared for the child while her parents worked, until Su became an office receptionist at age 14.
"I grew up in this place (the clinic)," Su said. "Mom would just pick me up and bring me here after her work at the State Highway Patrol, so I would just come here and do my homework until it was time to go home and eat."
She began the University of Missouri-Kansas City's accelerated medical program at age 18 and graduated six years later. Then, she attended a four-year residency at State University of New York-Buffalo before returning to Jefferson City in 1999 to work at the women's clinic.
Su joined her father's practice in 2003. "I think I asked if I could work here because I liked his patients," she said. "And I liked the philosophy. He was part of that experience. Women experience a delivery maybe one to three times in their lives, and they'll remember every detail about it, so you want to make it a really special experience."
Dad retired in 2015 and left the clinic to Su. She credits the staff for helping her transition into leadership. Su said it wouldn't be possible without the efforts of registered nurse Kaley Ash, office nurse Trudy Rockhold, medical assistant Amanda Werdehausen, and lab assistants Shelley Adkerson and Sebastian Valencia.
The clinic isn't Su's only responsibility. Her parents opened Capital Ritz in 1997, after Philo — who averaged 325 deliveries per year — suffered a heart attack and needed a relaxing way to exercise.
"Dad did all those deliveries and then had a heart attack at the age of 51," Su said. "And Mom goes, 'You're working too hard.'"
After joining dance clubs, the couple formed their own studio. When they lost a hip-hop instructor, Mom decided her daughter would take it up. "Then I went for training, and I've loved it ever since," Su said. "I started with hip-hop, and then I did Zumba."
Zumba, a form of multi-genre musical exercise, keeps participants active and helps older people form new brain connections that defend against Alzheimer's disease.
"It really does elevate your mood to be around other people," Su said. "For brain health, if you move your arm or leg across the mid-line (of your body), you form new connections in your brain. Already, if you make new brain connections, then plaques can't get in there and cause Alzheimer's."
There are still new things in store for the energetic physician/dance instructor. She looks forward to using alternative and traditional medicines to help people in even more ways. "We will have more tools to help people," Su said. "So if you have chronic pain or some issues with pain, even in pregnancy, I have tools that can help them."
Q. Who has invested in you and your career?
A. "Definitely my parents, my grandma and my husband. My husband allows me to spend as much time with my patients as I need. So I never get feelings that I need to be home or we can't see a movie because a patient is calling all the time during the movie. He never gets grouchy about it. He knows that that's just the nature of this job.
"My parents will cook me breakfast because I don't have time to eat, so they'll bring it here so I can keep seeing patients. They'll help check in patients after hours. They'll drive me to the hospital if I'm tired.
"Grandma used to just let me cry if I was tired, and she just talked to me and encouraged me, so it really takes a whole family."
Q. What choices have you made to invest in yourself and your own success?
A. "I (learn) every day from my patients or my husband. If a patient says, 'Hey, have you heard about a gentle C-Section?' I say, 'No, I haven't. What is it?' It expanded my knowledge. If it's reasonable, I'm going to look into it. I'm going to read about it."
Q. Of what professional achievement are you most proud?
A. "My best professional achievement is I still enjoy taking care of patients every day after 17 years.
"I (also) think I'm glad I'm still a Christian because I think I could have drifted easily far away. I'm still in love with Jesus. Anybody's faith or belief system can be lost, and so I think after all that I'm glad I still believe in him through all these years."
Q. What do you see as the biggest issue facing women in the workplace?
A. "I see them struggling with feeling guilty about working or feeling guilty about working from home. I see that every single day. If they are staying at home, they feel socially isolated. If they are working outside the home, they feel they aren't doing what they went to school for. And I feel that both have this crisis in their self-esteem, where they should feel good about it no matter what they are doing."
Q. What drives you most in life and your career?
A. "Jesus. That one's easy."
Q. What advice would you give to a woman entering the workforce?
A. "Be prepared, be professional, but still be herself. You don't have to wear suits, but you can still be very knowledgeable about your job and speak very well. But you can still have your personality. I don't want women to feel that they have to be really hard and like men. We're not men. It's OK to be feminine because we bring a lot of good to a meeting. We have different perspectives about things. We are able to see the whole picture, sometimes better than maybe some men."
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