Stephen Chao was born and raised in Clear Lake, a suburb of Houston, Texas, in 1979. His family moved to Clear Lake due to his father's employment at NASA, and he grew up socializing with other Chinese-American families at the local church and visiting Houston Chinatown on the weekends. He attended Rice University where he completed a degree in Biochemistry and Policy Studies and got involved with many different organizations such as OCA-Greater Houston and the Houston Asian-American Film Festival, both of which he is still involved with today. Afterwards, he attended medical school at UT San Antonio and currently practices as a family physician in a low-income clinic in Sharpstown, Gulfton. He is on the faculty at Baylor College of Medicine and is involved with many health care advocacy groups such as Health Care for All Texas and Promotores in San Antonio.